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Innovation vs. Imitation: Staying Ahead of the Game (03:21)

How can health care innovators avoid falling prey to the curse of not actually being the one that reaps the value their innovation ultimately creates? How can they get customers to stay with them instead of moving to a new competitor?

“The way we win is by having a health system–grade product,” says American Well’s SVP of Corporate and Business Development, Jeffrey Kosowsky. American Well has had to turn down business because of competitors giving away their product for free, but free doesn’t necessarily mean the highest quality. “We work at that by making sure that we’re delivering something much better,” Kosowsky says. In health care, you can’t afford to give away a poor-quality product that breaks — an attitude that has won American Well back a lot of business.

It’s also critical to keep in mind the exponential growth that can occur when your innovation takes off, notes Kosowsky, and to make smart business decisions based on that possibility — including conserving your cash. “You can be the greatest innovator and not be around to reap the rewards at the end,” he says. “So it’s very critical to our strategy to make sure that we don’t only win today but that we save enough powder to really win at the end.”

“Our goal is to transform health care — that’s why we’re doing this,” adds Iora Health CEO Rushika Fernandopulle. “If we can get people to learn from us, imitate us, get inspired by us, that’s a great thing. We will have met our goal.” But, he adds, Iora Health is only 1% of a trillion-dollar market. “As long as we continue to evolve the model and do things better than other people, we will continue to have a market,” Fernandopulle says. “If we don’t, we ought not to have a market. It’s really that simple.”

From the NEJM Catalyst event New Risk, New Business Models held in Boston, October 6, 2016.

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