Disruptive Innovation in Healthcare

Disruptive Innovation in Healthcare: 4 Ways to Approach it in the Consumer Health Marketplace

Stephen Pitt, PhD, Global OTC R&D Innovation Director
Neha Patel Stavros, PhD, R&D Innovation Director

Disruptive innovation is a hot topic these days in all sorts of industries, including consumer healthcare.

The phrase, introduced in the late 1990s by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, essentially describes a new product or service that transforms an existing market category by introducing simplicity, convenience, accessibility and affordability where complication and higher cost has been the status quo. Initially, the product or service often serves a small, bottom-market niche that’s not considered very important or profitable. But it relentlessly moves up, squeezing out its established competitors.

Think Uber. Netflix. The mobile phone.

There’s a certain riskiness to pursuing disruptive innovation. But there’s a large potential payoff as well. The key: To get from a problem to a solution that drives disruption, you have to break some rules and challenge the status quo.

That said, here are 4 ways to flex your disruptive innovation muscles in consumer healthcare.

1. Think about Products and Services that Might Safely Transcend the Doctor’s Office

The home pregnancy test, which debuted in the late 1970s, is a great example. Not quite as accurate as a medical lab test, but close enough that women everywhere quickly embraced the privacy and convenience it offers. Since then, a handful of other tests have made the transition, including at-home tests for HIV, UTIs, glucose monitoring and even cholesterol.

Similarly, a number of Rx products have made the switch to OTC in recent years. GSK Consumer Healthcare has overseen a number of these, including allergy medicine Flonase® Allergy Relief, NRT products such as Nicorette® and NicoDerm CQ® and acid-reducers, Tagamet® and Prevacid®. (To learn more about how we help other companies make this switch, click here.)

Each of these products became disruptive innovations in healthcare by making them more accessible, convenient, affordable and simple for consumers who are trying to manage their own health.

2. Consider New Uses or Positions for Already Established Active Ingredients

Diphenhydramine is a classic example. Approved as the first prescription antihistamine in the mid-1940s, it’s since become a more accessible and affordable OTC antihistamine and popular sleep aid ingredient since its OTC approval in the 1980s.

New combination products can also quickly gain traction with consumers by offering convenience and affordability. Multi-symptom cold and allergy products are one popular example. Others include nighttime pain relief products, which combine an analgesic with diphenhydramine and OTC migraine products, like Excedrin Migraine®, that combine aspirin or acetaminophen with caffeine.

3. Challenge the Way Health Products or Services are Usually Delivered

Two of the hottest disruptive innovations in healthcare we’ve seen in this area of late are retail medical clinics and telemedicine. Millions of people now access primary healthcare services in a whole new way.

The consumer healthcare front is also ripe for disruptive thinking. Think about it. What if there’s an easier to use container for toothpaste than a tube? What if you could have a child apply a patch instead of swallow a pill or an icky liquid? What if you had a digital technology that could eliminate surprises at the dentist office by allowing you to monitor and address your own plaque levels. Anything that could make a product work faster, longer, or more pleasantly while maintaining efficacy is likely to be a winner. If it can also make a product or service more convenient, affordable and simple, it has the potential to be disruptive as well.

4. Choose the Right Partner to Bring A Disruptive Idea to Life

Obviously, it takes a sharp team to bring any consumer healthcare idea to market. When you’re looking for a corporate partner for a potentially disruptive innovation, however, you need a partner with expertise plus the freedom to pursue unconventional solutions.

That’s where GSK Consumer Healthcare offers an advantage. Our Disruptive Innovation team isn’t devoted to any specific product category. We operate with a much broader focus and the freedom to take risks and pursue out-of-the-box ideas that apply to consumer healthcare. That’s something many corporate partners aren’t willing or organised to do.

As PhD level directors, each with 15+ years of experience in the OTC industry, we also lead an interdisciplinary team dedicated to working with entrepreneurs and start-ups and to evaluating innovative ideas from all angles. That includes: regulatory considerations, chemistry/formulation, preclinical and clinical trials needed to create quality products backed by science, IP protection, medical affairs and marketing.

Have a consumer healthcare innovation you think could be disruptive? Contact us, or learn more about how we work with partners.