December 7, 2018

Becoming One with Customers, a Key to Healthcare Innovation Success: CATA Video Op-Ed, with Ohad Arazi, TELUS

Tackling Innovation In Heathcare: Ohad Arazi, Chief Strategy Officer, VP Provider Solutions, TELUS Health On CATA TECHNOW from CATAAlliance on Vimeo.

Ohad Arazi, Chief Strategy Officer, Vice President Provider Solutions, TELUS Health joins CATA TECHNOW for a video interview (8 minutes) with CATA CEO, John Reid on the subject of tackling innovation in healthcare. Mr Arazi explains why large organizations with a plethora of resources, in general, struggle with innovation, and then offers insights into what to do about it. While solutions may apply to tech, the formulae for the healthcare environment needs to consider its siloed nature and slow adaptation to change. He closes with comments on what TELUS has learned from recent new initiatives in the healthcare innovation space.

Mr. Arazi  has joined the team of CATA TECHNOW Analysts ready to comment on issues and topics of the day on CATA TECHNOW.

Related: Datebook: 34th Annual CATAAlliance Innovation & Leadership Awards Gala (May 15, 2019, Ottawa on Digital Health) & then join CATA’s Canadian Mobile Health Care (ICT) Forum (253 Opt-In members)

Becoming One with Customers
I start with a question: Why is it that large corporations, with a plethora of resources,  struggle with innovation?

The reality and answer is that innovation is very difficult for big enterprises, not just for tech, but also for governments as they struggle to adopt new solutions. There is so much core, status quo, gravity and momentum around what we’re doing today.

Large organizations are on a treadmill to deliver value to their existing customers and constituents; it’s very hard to jump off.

I’ll say something controversial – even when large organizations have the bright innovation, as it starts to permeate through the system, the existing businesses treat it like a virus!

What does the body does to a virus? It releases antibodies to suppress it and prevent the spread of the innovation to the other parts of the business, because the organism has to focus on the existing strategy, on delivering value now,  on meeting existing commitments and serving the existing customers. This is all subconscious and done without malice, but it is a daily challenge that all large organizations face.

That is the innovator’s’ dilemma, a well-documented concept.

So what do you do about it?

The key point:  don’t treat collaboration as a nice to have – it is an imperative. In order to succeed with innovations, it is mission critical to  build a community of innovators around you, find ways to collaborate with the ecosystem partners, with customers, with government, and with academia.

You do this not just to come up with the bright ideas, but to allow them to take root and to meaningfully grow, before we fully bring them into your core business.

Some might say that makes sense in a tech environment, but how do you do this in a healthcare environment, which is challenged with silos and is very slow to adopt change? That is a fundamental question that anyone working in health IT or precision medicine is facing.

Yes, digital technology has improved efficiency, and  it has reduced errors, but when you compare it to other services you consume – let’s say banking – it’s pretty clear that technology has not transformed the consumption model for healthcare.

This goes back to the collaboration imperative I mentioned up front. Without a community that can innovate new ideas, allow them to incubate and scale them, we’re not affecting enough change, we’re not transforming care.

Here is what I have learned in my job.

My first takeaway is that healthcare is a team sport. You need a diverse mix of players on your team to succeed. Think about the inherent tension and complementary approaches between start ups and already developed enterprises. Start ups are really good at trying. They often fail, but they keep trying trying.

Enterprises are good at scaling. They have a low tolerance for failure. We have already talked about their tendency to treat innovations at viruses, but once something takes root, enterprises are good at applying their channel and resources to it and make it big.

I experience this at the TELUS Ventures arm, that invests in start-ups in various stages development,  building up an ecosystem of innovators, capital support, incubation resources, business connections, all coming together to them to grow those initial buds on their own.

My second takeaway is the old adage that if you want to go fast – go alone, but if you want to go far – go together. In other words you need a community around you to take an innovation from inception through to execution.

The collective power of the community will take the idea, test it out, apply it in different care settings, explore different models for montizaton and get it to a maturity level that it can be productized, and ideally later served up to other members of the community through a platform.

We do this at the TELUS Living Labs, with a mandate to partner with select clinics and pharmacies, and work with them on clinician led innovation. We work with these clinics as both technology partners and equity partners, in order to have real skin in the game.

These Living Labs are a place where we work together with our customers to explore new innovations, to test out and validate hypothesis, and to measure where these innovations are truly impacting outcomes.

By becoming one with customers, you not only get closer to them, but you are now able to see  customer’s customers, which are the patients. That gets everyone closer to the transformation we talked about up front.


Ohad Arazi, Vice President and General Manager, TELUS Health Living Labs: Ohad joined TELUS Health to lead the Living Labs organization, a new group that enables partners and portfolio investments to experiment with new products and drive innovation in Canadian health care sectors. Ohad is passionate about developing solutions that bridge healthcare and IT, and believes technology can play a role in transforming outcomes, decreasing cost and enhancing collaboration.