I recently presented on the topic of Disruptive Innovation. Like many things in life, the speaking opportunity happened by accident. I was asked to fill-in for Netsmart Chief Operating Officer Tom Herzog who had a previous commitment. Since Tom is an inspiring speaker, especially on this topic, I was a little intimidated. After looking at his slides, I realized he and I came at Disruptive Innovation from different perspectives. Tom’s take was very technology-oriented and mine more clinical.

Clay Christiansen made the concept of Disruptive Innovation popular in his 1997 book The Innovators Dilemma. It’s really about disruptions of markets due to technology changes. But I see it as both a technological and socio-cultural phenomena. For example, the recovery movement for people with serious mental illnesses is disruptive. Deinstitutionalization was another disruption, allowing people to be served outside of state-operated facilities. Today, this trend continues. Now, people want care delivered to them in ways that are convenient and empowering…so they have a voice in their care.

I’m not just referring to the seriously mentally ill, or even mental illness in general. These are things people (patients) want. It’s what I want from my primary care provider.

We’re seeing apps, websites and monitoring tools like Fitbit® and Jawbone proliferate to meet this need. We can get genetic tests done on our own saliva to track heredity and, until recently, genetic risk for medical problems (23 and Me). The FDA has temporarily stopped 23 and Me from providing information about genetic risk for medical problems, but the trend is not going to abate. People want information about their own health and they’ll get it one way or another. Providers are going to be doing more “coaching” and less “treating” as consumers get access to more information.

As it evolves, expect entrenched interests to balk and complain about substandard quality and “nonprofessionals” doing jobs. Providers will need to rethink their roles and exhibit flexibility. The changes are coming regardless. Providers need to either get on board or step aside.