Moonshots, Acceleration, and Fixing Potholes

Norman Winarsky & Karl Ronn
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Almost everyone has seen a TED talk. They’re so common that we can often forget the true reason for the TED conference. TED is technology, entertainment, and design. The secret sauce in TED is bringing together people from different disciplines and encouraging them to use that convergence to change the world. When we draw the world’s most inspired minds together, discuss ideas, ask questions, and challenge one another to try different approaches, we cultivate the unique environment in which solutions are born.

We see these same principles embodied in Health2047. We’re an integrated innovation company purpose-built to improve U.S. healthcare by bridging the gap between the medical community and the tech community. To create the system-level changes our healthcare system so desperately needs, we’re bringing the best and brightest to the table — from academicians and physicians to entrepreneurs and thought-leading technologists — because together we can achieve far more than what anyone could do alone.

This year’s TED conference in Vancouver had a great lineup of speakers (though we were surprised that health was not a bigger focus). Here are some highlights that may provide a bit more insight into why we’re so excited about Health2047’s model for driving purposeful disruption in healthcare.

Astro Teller, the official Captain of Moonshots at X, gave an impressive presentation about the importance of building a multidisciplinary team and the structure necessary to vet winning ideas. “At X, you’ll find an aerospace engineer working alongside a fashion designer, and former military ops commanders brainstorming with laser experts. We use the words ‘moonshot’ to remind us to dream big, and ‘factory’ to remind us that we need concrete plans to make [those dreams] real,” Teller said. Sustainable and profitable healthcare innovation won’t come from any single company or technology — or from solutions bolted together. It requires strategic, organized collaboration across the disciplines. As an integrated innovation company, Health2047 has an inventive multidisciplinary team of experts in everything from product and game design, to behavioral and social sciences, to regulations and policy, to product design and engineering. Just as importantly, it’s a team with a roadmap and the business acumen to develop, guide, and commercialize disruptive ideas that enhance the practice of healthcare.

Al Gore also made an appearance on the TED stage this year, and was more optimistic about the climate change battle than in years past. “I have some bad news, but I have a lot more good news,” he said. Gore provided images and statistics to highlight the extent of climate collapse. He underscored the damage we’ve caused, while asserting that innovative solutions to combat climate change represent a sizable new business opportunity. Well, the situation is much the same in healthcare. With 1 in 3 Americans now pre-diabetic, our nation’s health is in peril and our healthcare system has not been able to adequately adapt to the shift from acute care to chronic care which only compounds the problem. That said, like Gore, we are optimistic. Why? Because we see and understand the problems in front of us, we’re committed to creating solutions in a collaborative fashion, and we know we can scale these solutions rapidly working with the AMA and the partner ecosystem we’re building. Health2047’s approach makes sense ethically and financially by accelerating the rate and scale of innovation. Even though academics, physicians, and entrepreneurs have the best of intentions in their individual efforts to solve pressing healthcare issues, working on the problems within individual, insular systems slows us down. When it comes to combatting huge crises, as Gore said, “It matters a lot how fast we win it.”

We were delighted to see renowned introvert and recognized game-changer Linus Torvalds at TED. He reminded us about the importance of getting the fundamentals right and the fact that amazing ideas need both individual and group commitment to come to fruition. “I am not a visionary. I’m an engineer. I’m happy with the people who are wandering around looking at the stars, but I am looking at the ground and I want to fix the pothole before I fall in,” he told us. When it comes to potholes in our healthcare system, we’re taking a page out of our founding partner’s playbook. In 1847, the American Medical Association (AMA) was formed to address the chaotic state of U.S. healthcare practice. With no uniform standard and rampant snake oil salesmen, it was the “Wild West” era in healthcare. The AMA prioritized the fundamentals, setting standards for physician education and medical ethics. On today’s digital frontier, we face a whole new landscape of opportunities as we transition to technologically enhanced and personalized medicine. As Torvalds said, we need to make sure the solutions we’re developing address the very real potholes, because it’s a lot safer to look up at the stars when we can trust the ground beneath us. Health2047 is focused on creating system-wide solutions to improve the physician-patient relationship and better our nation’s health. It may not sound as glamorous as a shiny new app or gizmo, but establishing a framework for experts from different communities to solve problems together, along with the right channels to bring resulting ideas and products to market, will allow us to keep looking forward, and upward.

As always, we left TED inspired and invigorated. However, this year was a little different because we are actively engaged in a correlative endeavor. Working on Health2047, the TED experience continues. The breakthrough opportunities in healthcare give us a chance to make a huge difference in our world, and now is the time to start the dialogue. Will you join the conversation?

—  Norman Winarsky is President at Winarsky Ventures and Karl Ronn is Head of Product at Health2047. 

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