On Saturday, February 4th, it was my honor to present the closing keynote at the 2012 Harvard Business School Conference on Health. Nearly 700 business leaders, clinicians, alumni, students, and faculty attended the conference. The theme for this year’s event was, The Future of Healthcare – Innovative Business Models. Over the course of the day, the conference offered three keynotes and multiple panel discussions about new business models and innovation in biotech and the pharmaceutical industry, medical devices, public health and private-public partnerships, entrepreneurship and venture capital, and health IT and big data. The conference kicked off with a keynote by Karen Ignagni, President and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans. The mid-day keynote was given by H. Lawrence Culp, Harvard Business School alum and President and CEO of the Danaher Corporation, a multi-billion dollar highly diversified collection of companies including manufacturers of medical laboratory equipment and diagnostics devices.
There are advantages and disadvantages to being the last keynote presenter at a conference like this, especially at such a distinguished institution as the Harvard Business School. The advantage is being able to draw from all of the content presented throughout the day and provide some perspective. The disadvantage is the possibility that all of your prepared material would have already been covered by the speakers and panels before you. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.
A few minutes before my keynote was slated to begin, I decided to visit the men’s room in Burden Hall, the 900-seat auditorium on the HBS campus where the conference was being held. Down the stairs and just outside the men’s room was an oak paneled room with leather chairs and historic photos of several generations of the Burden family. It was there that I spotted an iconic symbol of what the HBS Health Conference was really all about. Sitting between the separate entrances to the men’s and women’s facilities were two oak-trimmed phone booths with folding glass doors. However, neither of those booths housed a telephone anymore. The equipment had long ago been removed. The booths had become irrelevant symbols in an age when every student, faculty member, and visitor carries a personal telecommunications device in their pocket. It got me thinking about all the ways the health industry will likely change in the years ahead and wondering what the future icons representing that change will be? Hospital buildings sitting fallow in parking lots overgrown with weeds? Solo and small group medical practices converted to take-out pizza joints? Marble adorned health insurance buildings remodeled as central banks?
I went upstairs convinced that I had the right material to share with the distinguished audience that was waiting for me in the auditorium. These are the healthcare leaders of tomorrow. These are the men and women who will invent the future of medicine. These are the people who will take their experience from business, industry, science, clinical medicine, public policy, and entrepreneurship to harness the power of technology and apply it in ways that will revolutionize how we get and give healthcare, improve healthcare quality, lower healthcare costs, and make health and healthcare more accessible to people around the world.
Thank you Harvard Health Club and Harvard Business School for giving me the opportunity to join you, learn from you, and share my knowledge with such an amazing gathering of inquisitive, bright young minds. I speak at events all over the world, but rarely do I feel that my words and the information I share might actually stimulate change as much as I did being in your presence in Burden Hall this weekend. Congratulations for putting together an absolutely stellar event. But then, what else would we expect from the men and women at the Harvard Business School?
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft