The Provider's Perspective on Innovation


Editor’s Note: Cambia Grove is proud to partner with the innovation community to amplify their perspectives on topics applicable to the larger health care ecosystem. This blog post is part of our 5 Points of Health Care™ series, a Cambia Grove original framework designed to better understand the health care system by breaking the system into five distinct sectors: Patient, Payer, Policymaker, Provider and Purchaser. This guest post from Josh Kerns, Director of Marketing and Communications for the King County Medical Society, kicked off our month of May focus on the provider. Check out the dynamic panel conversation that took place May 2, 2019. 

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Cambia, Cambia Grove, or any other entity or organization.


As a recovered journalist who transitioned to strategic communications and policy consulting the past several years, I’ve had a front row seat at the intersection of entrepreneurship and health care. In addition to my own work, I have spoken with numerous entrepreneurs, physicians and health care administrators about their needs.

And I’ve observed first hand a significant disconnect between many startups and providers.

I currently serve as the Director of Marketing and Communications for the King County Medical Society, representing thousands of physicians, in addition to producing and hosting an ongoing podcast series on care transformation for UW Medicine with system leaders. I also serve as an advisor to a large accelerator focusing on health care and telecommunications.

The biggest takeaway is that far too many entrepreneurs are focused more on creating profitable companies rather than solutions of real value to providers, and don’t understand the needs of their potential customers.

What is value? Affordability and usability in all settings

As one health care system leader advised, “Make your solution affordable so that whatever is new can be used everywhere— when taking care of people who are underinsured, not insured, etc.—rather than what I usually see, which is ‘what kind of new trick can I create that will lead to the formation of a company that I can then sell and make a lot of money on?’”

Providers of all sizes face dramatic limits and even reductions in compensation, so there is a growing hesitance to invest in new solutions.

One prominent local physician, who has launched and sold several startups while still practicing primary care, tells me the greatest value entrepreneurs can offer her is time. Providers at all levels are struggling to spend adequate time with patients because of challenges ranging from reduced compensation, to battling with insurance companies over the phone to gain authorization for medication, procedures, etc., for their patients.

“If your new technology isn’t easy and quick to implement as well as affordable, I’m not interested,” she told me.

And when it comes to seeking counsel from physicians for product development, another private practitioner told me she is not interested in financial equity, but in actual compensation.

“My costs keep increasing and the bills keep coming, so stock that might pay a return in five years are of no value to me,” this practitioner said. “If they want my expertise, I need to be compensated because it is time away from my patients, which is the only way I get paid.” 

After numerous conversations, it’s clear the biggest area still desperately in need of innovation is the electronic medical record.

“Magic would happen if patient encounters could be documented in real time, as it happens, without post-encounter charting but just a quick check and then a send-off,” one leading vascular surgeon told me.

“Concentrate on electronic health records and find a solution that can be applied to all hospitals, a platform that is uniform, simple, patient and physician-oriented and not a cash machine that also can store data—most of which is unusable to improve safety or efficacy,” said another top health system leader advises entrepreneurs.

And many told me they weren’t interested in trialing or beta-testing new solutions. If it reduces patient throughput, they are not interested in something that takes them away from what they get paid to do.

“Figure it out first, then come see me,” a primary care physician advises.

About Josh Kerns

Josh Kerns headshot.jpg

Josh Kerns is the Director of Marketing and Communications for the King County Medical Society, and a strategic communications consultant for Cypress Point Strategic. He is a veteran journalist who has won numerous awards including an Emmy and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He is also the host and producer of Golf Talk Seattle on Sportsradio 950 KJR Saturday mornings at 6a and available on-demand via iHeart Radio and Soundcloud.