Disruptive Innovation Won’t Wait Until You’re Ready

John Marcille

MANAGED CARE January 2009. ©MediMedia USA

John Marcille

You would not be reading this if not for “disruptive innovation” or “disruptive technology,” terms that serve as this issue’s theme. In the magazine business, a disruption called desktop publishing years ago killed jobs, mostly typographers, pressmen, and proofreaders, while reducing costs and allowing many more editorial voices to be heard. As survivors of that revolution, we can see the value of positive disruption.

As our lead story points out, disruptive innovation “is a new technology that unexpectedly displaces an established technology, but only if it is accompanied by an innovative business model.” The article, by contributing editor Maureen Glabman, looks at five innovations that use lower-cost providers in lower-cost surroundings but preserve or, more likely, improve care.

Our popular Q&A feature is with the noted Harvard professor Clayton Christensen, who coined both terms and who explains how these concepts can be applied to medicine. He makes the somewhat disquieting case that network-model health plans may be tomorrow’s dinosaurs. But on page 26, two of his associates take a positive view of the future of health plans — if insurers read and follow the signs. If they can adapt, payers will have far more power than fragmented physicians, other providers, employers, and patients.

Managed Care, launched in 1992, was purchased by our current owner, MediMedia USA, in 1999. In other words, we’re part of a big company now but in the beginning we were very small. Had it not been for desktop publishing, a disruptive innovation, we would not be around at all. It would be prohibitively expensive to hire all the people who were once needed to put out a publication such as this. We’re much more timely, I like to think we have fewer errors, and we have greater internal coherence because of the smaller staff.

So, yes, we understand the challenges and opportunities that disruptive innovation presents. So should you.