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Biodesign Innovation in Health Care Delivery

Posted By Scott Marchese, Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Two articles in the Stanford Business Magazine highlight Professor Stefanos Zanios' ongoing work in health care delivery and medical device innovation. Zanios leads a course in 'Biodesign Innovation' where engineers work with medical and business school students to identify a medical need and create a corresponding new device or technology. The teams then generate business plans regarding these innovations and present them to venture capitalists as investment opportunities.

Situated as it is at the intersection of three distinct fields, this type of 'device entrepreneurship' remains a relatively undeveloped area of health care. As such, Prof. Zanios has distilled the knowledge and experience of his design courses into a new textbook, appropriately titled 'Biodesign' (which itself represents the implementation of a savvy business plan). Intended as a guide for both graduate-level cirriculum and for the entrepreneurial medical device innovator, Zanios hopes that the book becomes a standard text for its field.

This type of synthesis amongst business, science, and complex human systems (ie, health care) looks peachy for MBAs, medical device companies, and business school professors. So what about the people most needing improved health care: the poor, uninsured, and underinsured? Zanios has dedicated part of his research to expanding HIV testing in poor and underserved areas by helping create pooled blood tests, allowing far more screenings with a given set of resources. He thinks that operations research in this vein has much to offer heath care, especially when delivery systems are beleagured by inefficiencies and lack of access.Yet technology is also essential to quality health care, and as costs mushroom, many medical technology innovations automatically price themselves out of the reach of those without first-rate insurance plans. Zanios contends that these innovations can make a difference for these underserved groups, but only if the incentive system guiding doctors undergoes a systematic change: doctors should be paid for patients' health results. Sounds pretty reasonable and intuitive, but it may take many more Zanioses to implementthatinnovation in the American health care system.

» Biodesign course article

» Health Care Access article

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