Why Are Entrepreneurship and Innovation Critical in Post-Pandemic Healthcare?

What forms do entrepreneurship and innovation take in healthcare? And why do all health leaders need to hone in on these skills?


While innovation has already been moving at lightning speed in recent years, the global COVID-19 pandemic has uncovered several gaps and has shown that innovation in healthcare cannot be limited to advances in diagnostics and treatments. We spoke to Rick Hall, PhD, Senior Director of Health Innovation at the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University (ASU) to understand how entrepreneurship and innovation impact the entire health system and, in turn, our health and our lives.

Healthcare innovation as a multifactorial system

When it comes to innovation in healthcare, most people think of the leaps that science has made over the past several decades. Advances in technology such as artificial intelligence, better therapeutic options, and improved diagnostics, as well as breakthroughs in data analysis and health informatics show us that we have come a long way. However, the majority of this innovation has been focused on the development of new drugs, medical devices, diagnostic procedures, and therapies. Events like the COVID-19 pandemic quickly show that while the future has arrived, some areas of healthcare are stuck in the past and cannot keep up with the pace of the world. Professor Hall addresses the importance of approaching innovation in healthcare as a multifactorial system, where one thing affects others.

“A simple example of this is policy, which affects all areas of healthcare — think about the implications the Affordable Care Act or some of the recent legislation that is being introduced in response to the coronavirus have had. A leader in healthcare needs to be well-versed in a multitude of disciplines such as evidence-based practices, finances, technology, communication, and the innovative process. At ASU, we specialize in each of these areas but we also look at them as a whole because you can’t innovate in one space without affecting the others.”

What is the role of entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship in healthcare services?

In order to best facilitate innovation, Professor Hall encourages health leaders to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset — or, if they don’t plan on opening a business themselves, to apply entrepreneurial thinking in their current organizations, which is known as intrapreneurship.

“To me, the essence of an entrepreneur is someone who sees a problem, creates a test, and validates a solution to that problem, regardless of what the problem is and regardless of the environment that it’s in. This is what we need in healthcare, especially in times of massive disruption.”

The facets of entrepreneurship and innovation in healthcare

As Director of the Health Entrepreneur Accelerator Lab and the MAYO Clinic/ASU MedTech Accelerator, Professor Hall has seen the many faces that innovation can take in healthcare.

One student has raised over $100K, won several contests and awards, including placing third at the HIMSS Conference, for an idea where people incarcerated for non-violent crimes were trained to become navigators in healthcare systems. The initiative both reduces the chance of people being reincarcerated and it is a job placement opportunity for hospital systems who need workers.

There were even success stories in the middle of the pandemic. A couple of PhD nursing students whom Dr. Hall is mentoring are launching an app that is an “Uber for nurses” to connect nurses and patients. They won $10K for the idea in May before having a product in development.