9 examples of disruptive innovations in healthcare

3 min read


Innovation is no stranger to the healthcare sector. New therapies, medical devices, and healthcare management practices are adopted all the time. However, up until fairly recently, examples of disruptive innovations in healthcare were far less common. What is disruptive innovation, and what impact do these disruptions have on the healthcare industry? Disruptive innovations are those that cause radical change and often result in new leaders in the field. They overturn the usual way of doing things to such an extent that they have a ripple effect throughout the industry. The following nine examples of disruptive innovations in healthcare are centered on technology, customer-centric care, and third-party advancements.


Technology is the biggest driver of many disruptive innovations in healthcare since every aspect of healthcare is dependent on some form of tech. From wearables and mobile phone apps to big data and artificial intelligence (AI) use in diagnosis, any new technology could potentially shake up healthcare.

1. Consumer devices, wearables, and apps        

In the past, a patient could get only biometric data about their pulse, heart rate, blood oxygen, and blood pressure when they went to the doctor’s office. Now, consumers take charge of their own health journey, using data gathered from their Fitbits, smartwatches, and mobile phone fitness apps. Physicians can use the data gathered from these wearables to make treatment decisions, although the vast amount of personal information collected by these apps has led to legal and ethical concerns over data privacy.

2. AI and machine learning            

AI applications can manage patient intake and scheduling as well as billing. Chatbots answer patient questions. With natural language processing capabilities, AI can collate and analyze survey responses. AI will probably increase in use as a way to bring down healthcare costs and let doctors and staff focus on patient care. Healthcare leaders must be knowledgeable about the issues surrounding database management and patient privacy. 

3. Blockchain             

Blockchain is a database technology that uses encryption and other security measures to store data and link it in a way that enhances security and usability. This innovation facilitates many aspects of healthcare, including patient records, supply and distribution, and research. Tech startups have entered the healthcare sector with blockchain applications that have changed how providers use medical data. 

4. IoT         

What if public health managers could gather data from wearable devices, thermometers, smartwatches, and various other consumer devices — and then use that data to discover disease clusters and provide care to patients more effectively? That’s the vision of the internet of things (IoT). Some of the complex issues surrounding IoT include patient data security and how to define smartwatches — are they consumer products or medical devices that require Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval?

Consumer-centered care

Many examples of disruptive innovations in healthcare pertain to consumer-centered care. With the increasing consumerization of healthcare, the patient-healthcare provider relationship has also undergone radical change. In this arena, the combination of technology and public policy has transformed how patients access healthcare and interact with their healthcare providers.  

5. Electronic health records and big data              

Electronic health records (EHRs) have been a growing part of patient care since the adoption of the Affordable Care Act. The massive amount of EHR data goes far beyond patient health records, however, and can be used to conduct research, improve care, build AI applications, and create new business opportunities. Therefore, healthcare providers have to be aware of the issues surrounding EHR security.


6. Telemedicine           

COVID-19 has undoubtedly accelerated the delivery of telemedicine, and experts affirm that telemedicine is here to stay. It’s effective, doctors will be reimbursed for a telehealth consultation, and many patients prefer it. However, telemedicine is highly dependent on internet access, and some areas of the U.S. still have poor connectivity.

7. Patient rights            

EHR data security, billing transparency, and access to medical records are all part of a major shift in healthcare that ensures that patients receive all the information they need to make informed decisions about their care. As of early 2021, hospitals must make their prices more transparent, per the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Other upcoming reforms include the introduction of online pricing tools so patients can see their out-of-pocket costs. 

Third-party advancements

As with blockchain, third-party firms have altered every aspect of healthcare. Besides tech companies, the biggest disruptors of healthcare are retail giants. They acquire manufacturers and wholesalers and disrupt the supply chain. 

8. Retail competition            

In 2019, Walmart formed Walmart Health, freestanding clinics that provide primary and urgent care. The same year, Amazon bought the online pharmacy PillPack, setting itself up to move into the pharmaceutical retail market and potentially disrupt the pharmacy benefits management market. In 2018, CVS acquired Aetna, moving from retail into health plans. All of these moves create new giants in the industry, changing the way healthcare operates. 

9. Public policy          

CMS announced that public health plans will have to make pricing data available to all in 2022, with the goal of driving innovation and providing consumers with pricing comparison tools. Researchers, entrepreneurs, and developers will be able to access this data to build new tools for patients. 

Discover your path to innovation

As these examples of disruptive innovations in healthcare show, health sector executives must be nimble and tech-focused to not only meet industry challenges but also turn them into opportunities for growth. They must also be hyper-aware of patient privacy and HIPAA regulations, as many of these innovations — wearables, EHRs, big data, and more — have a direct impact on those areas. 

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