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Untangling Health Care Innovation

Health care innovation can be a bit like a snarly hairball. Students who take Professor John McVea’s courses at St. Thomas are very familiar with his analogy in the classroom.

“He'd share it with us before every single semester,” laughed Katrina Anderson ’17. “The visual of a hairball representing the health care system was impactful. Health care can be complex when you’re in the thick of it. It can feel exhausting and confusing.”

Anderson, CEO and co-founder of ClinicianNexus, a Minneapolis health tech start-up company, is no stranger to untangling hairballs in her career. She shares her three takeaways about the realities of health care innovation:

"Innovation takes time."

When you think of innovation, you may think of start-ups and quick delivery. But innovation in health care takes time. There’s always a process of understanding the problem, the solution, the validation process and building a sustainable business so you have the resources to continue providing that service.

"Innovation isn’t sexy or easy."

People are happy to knock you down out of your position and teach you how the real world works. You’ll find people who are excited and then the ones who say you're never going to do it. You won’t always know who or what to believe. You have to wade in the middle piece of it.

Ask yourself, “what does innovation mean to me and what contributes to its success?” Have realistic understandings and find the resources and people to help you execute. Innovation isn’t always exciting or fun. Be willing to put in the work and grind. Only a few people get to enjoy the high points of innovation. No one really sees the lonely side of it. But luckily you don’t have to be alone.

"Become comfortable with ambiguity."

As CEO of a new health care company, we’re constantly wrestling with ambiguity. I need to have confidence and make decisions but also know that we may need to change or pivot tomorrow.

Health care can get complex and convoluted very quickly. Have the curiosity to learn and not having to be right all the time. If you stick with it and ask questions, you’ll have those really joyful a-ha moments in health care.