Heart Transplant and Open Innovation

| February 27, 2012 | 0 Comments
Heart Transplant

Heart Transplant

The success rate for heart transplantation has increased steadily under the influence of aggressive anti-rejection medicines.  But, make no mistake about it; there is room for improvement.  The primary objective of heart transplantation is to prolong life. A secondary objective is to improve the quality of life. From my perspective as a heart transplant recipient with no medical background but with an abundance of patient experience, my take is a little different than either the Tampa General Hospital Guide to Heart Transplantation or the Columbia Presbyterian Guide To Heart Transplantation portrays.

Originally, I thought this inconsistency between the guides and the patient’s experience was because each transplant experience is unique. Now, I am not so sure about that. In any case, the concept of open innovation is changing the business, political, economic, sport, entertainment, technology, psychological and life science industries.

Open innovation is not a theory that is restricted to the USA.  The practice is global.  Founded by Harvard Professor Henry Chesbrough in 2003, all entities that use research and development, marketing, technology and just about everything else have eagerly embraced this concept.

The idea is not that complex. The basic principle is that companies with an idea or companies in need of expanding their research engage providers who have information that can advance the project.  Jointly the entities collaborate and solve issues.  By 2011, there were thousands of open collaborations with amazing developments.

Feeling that their information was proprietary, many companies and individuals resisted the idea of sharing information.  Certainly there are cases that closed, or internal, innovation, is necessary.  Perhaps, the best example of this corporate culture is Apple.  Steve Jobs protected the knowledge behind his products for his entire life.  It is doubtful that his successors will change his culture.

However, when it came to the glitter, Apple as always been receptive to open innovation input from is global customer base.  The giant technology firm used customer input every step of the way to be ahead of the competition.  Here is one company that has succeeded with open innovation initiatives.  There are many other successes.

As for professor Chesbrough, he is acknowledged as the father of open innovation. He has recently been retained to assist the European Union and the Euro Zone implement an open innovation initiative to assist the beleaguered European economies escape from their prolonged recession. Greece has been in recession for five years and has sunk the region’s credit ratings to their lowest point since the EU was founded.

In terms of cardiology, the most amazing open collaboration took place under the leadership of Chief of Surgery Pedro del Nido.  Believe it or not, the doctor worked with technology from video game developers to invent a system and device that has made children’s heart exploration as non-invasive as possible.

The doctor believes that infants have difficulty surviving the double whammy of anesthesia and invasive testing procedures.  Del Nido invented a device that operates with a joystick to maneuver tests into the inner chambers of the infant’s heart.  Kudos!

There are other very successful collaborations, including the Swiss hospital that worked with the London School of Medicine to build a replacement windpipe for a 36-year old African student.  Because stem cells were used, the patient had a rather remarkable recovery.

Of course, there are the stem cells successes of Cedars Sinai and the Jewish Hospital of Louisville.  These centers were successful with stem cell testing that would replace the need for many organs.  Because the stems cells of the individual are used, there is virtually no wait time and no symptoms of rejection.

Now the question is, how long will it be for these procedures to be developed and used by other hospitals?  With 50,000 people in need of transplants every year and with only 5,000 organs available globally, there are a lot of anxious individuals out there.

My train of thought has wandered. But, consider this my call for open innovation between heart transplant centers and their patients. In my experience, heart transplant centers are behind the times in terms of open innovation and transparency.

How many collective meetings with patients does your transplant center host?  How many of these meetings are to field input and questions from the patients?  How much open conversation is between cardio-surgeons?  Do you think your transplant center excels at patient-relations?  Do you think your center is transparent? Do you think your transplant center participates in open innovation collaborations with other transplant centers? I don’t mean seminars. I mean productive, open innovation conferences with physicians, nurses, caregivers, patients and patient supporters.

So, here’s the burning question.  Why not?

At a panel discussion at the Sloan School of Business at the renowned MIT, one student questioned a panelist.  His concern was that if he subjected his idea to open innovation, Google would steal it.

The panelist was painfully frank.  He answered that ideas are cheap. Bringing concepts to market is expensive.  Are transplant centers afraid to meet with patents?  Are transplant centers unwilling to commit to transparency because someone will steal their idea?  The facts speak for themselves.  Heart transplantation has come a long way, but there is along way to go.

Faced with billions of dollars of expired prescription medicines, pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer implemented open innovation because research costs are reduced dramatically.  Hello transplant centers!  Wake up.  Innovate, innovate, innovate.  Share with us, share with other centers.  Share with suppliers and share with potential donors.  Let’s keep the ball rolling and get better at heart transplantation.


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