A Doctor, an Engineer, and an Entrepreneur Walk Into A Surgical Suite... 


For the last 50+ years, global healthcare has emphasized infectious disease control in low and middle income countries. To stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, curtail malaria, or contain Zika, we became more adept at the logistics of emergency and specialized humanitarian response, deploying medical and human resources around the world. There is growing concern, however, that our eyes have been on healthcare "fires," while procedures and medical services that individuals in developed countries take for granted have been slowly smoldering with significantly less attention.  Across the globe, five billion people lack access to safe, affordable surgical and anesthesia care. In addition to insufficient medical expertise, the lack of such care is also due to inadequate transportation, power, water supply, equipment, financing, and information technology. These are not medical issues, but rather systems issues that require a fresh, integrative, and interdisciplinary view of these complexities. Solving these issues requires not only fresh solutions but also new business models to fuel and spread those solutions.

In August 2016, the Schlesinger Fund for Global Healthcare Entrepreneurship at Babson College, in partnership with CAMTech and Mbarara University of Science and Technology in Uganda, sponsored a Global Surgery Hack-A-Thon to put its integrative view of problem-solving to the test.  Business students worked with medical professionals, engineers, and others to tackle a variety of global surgery issues, leveraging three key concepts:

Opportunities at the Edges: As design thinking teaches, empathizing with the end user, deep observation, and listening practices helps achieve mutual respect faster, enabling identification of opportunities at the edges or intersections of their disciplines to create innovative solutions. "Opportunities at the edges" may also apply to looking right before a patient enters the surgical suite or immediately after surgery: what are the support systems around the actual surgery that may be improved to achieve better outcomes?

Delays Equals Denial: Three delays significantly impact accessibility and availability of surgical care: delays in seeking care, reaching care, and receiving care. While these waits may seem inconsequential, such delays can result in a patient never getting the care that he/she needs. How can innovators address such delays in their product and service design?

Multiple Stakeholders, Multiple Perspectives: The perspectives of patients, providers, and payers offer diverse views - both within and between the groups. For example, private payers (NGOs or private insurers) may have different views on a particular healthcare innovation than a governmental ministry of health. Care solutions and business models must take into account these different stakeholders' perspectives and objectives.

Managing in the biopharma world requires leaders who can bring the same integrative approach that the hack-a-thon brought to creating new solutions to healthcare problems in Uganda.  BioPharma: Mastering the Business of Science helps leaders who work in the biotech or pharmaceutical industries acquire a business perspective and skills that will provide them with greater insight into their industry in order to grow their careers.

A variation of this piece originally appeared on blogs.babson.edu.