Why Disruption is Leading to Collaboration

What is common in between these pairs of companies?

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Apart from being stellar companies in their respective fields, the above are pairs of disruptor-incumbent in the healthcare space. Apple launched its HealthKit and partnered with EMR giant Epic to revolutionize patient engagement. Theranos teamed up with Walgreens to bring its innovative lab diagnostics services to the masses. 23andMe announced collaboration with Pfizer to conduct genetic studies through its research platform. To me these partnerships highlight one interesting trend – disruption is leading to collaboration.

Businesses are often perceived as ‘dog eat dog’ establishments with little scope of interconnectedness. On the face of it collaboration seems to be counterintuitive. After all why would high potential disruptive company want to pool its intellectual capital with an incumbent? And from an incumbent’s perspective, why would it pool its resources with a disruptor?

Firstly, because they both share a common vision. Successful companies are driven by a vision and tend to work with those that share that vision with them. For example, Apple envisions HealthKit’s user generated data as a major game changer for patient-engagement. But it also realizes that to get a holistic view of a patient’s health, EMR data would be necessary. That’s where Epic comes into the picture which understands that the traditional EMR silo wouldn’t lead to patient-centred care – the new paradigm of healthcare.

Secondly, collaboration allows to share expertise. With its powerful genomic data 23andMe can make personalized medicine a reality. Since the company lacks industry knowledge in the area of drug research and development it gave Pfizer access to its repository. Pfizer has more than a century of expertise in drug development can tap this new information to study the associations between disease and genes.  This new partnership could lead to identify new targets to treat disease and to design clinical trials. It’s certainly a win-win for both the companies.

Finally, it allows them to leverage an established network. Theranos teamed up with Walgreens to deliver lab tests rather than opening its own retail clinics. Because it realized the importance of access to the right network at the right time. In an industry where having the first mover advantage can mean a difference between success and failure, Theranos tapped Walgreen’s well established retail networks to reach its targets.

It is an exciting time to be a player in the healthcare field today, both as a disruptor and as an incumbent. And in these exciting times the business model that is sustainable is the one that hinges on the spirit of collaboration.

Thoughts?

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