Thinking big in healthcare: Q&A with Haas keynote Lance Scott

Haas Reception Photo courtesy of Haas School of Business

Several weeks ago, we journeyed over to San Francisco’s Hotel Nikko for the 8th Annual Haas Business of Healthcare Conference, presented by UC Berkeley Haas School of Business. This year’s theme, “Exploring New Frontiers,” focused on thinking big, beyond incremental, year-to year advances in healthcare, towards industry innovation in the long-term. In addition to a day-long expo featuring around a dozen disruptive healthcare startups (which we loved), the conferenced offered a fresh lens into pressing industry topics like transforming prevention through technology, the future of care delivery, and using big data to solve grand-scale problems.

We sat down with conference keynote Lance Scott, Divisional Vice President of Global Market Development for coronary products at Abbott Vascular, to follow-up on his talk about innovation in healthcare and its relevance to entrepreneurs in the digital health space.

When we talk about innovation in healthcare, there are so many levels (technology, business, leadership, etc.). Where should the industry start?
The good news is that we don’t have to pick a single area in which “to start.”  There is a high degree of experimentation taking place in the industry by almost every stakeholder group.  Hospitals and hospital networks are trying new approaches to improve quality metrics and achieve improvement for reimbursement measures (e.g., 30-day readmission and patient satisfaction scores). Accountable care organizations (ACOs) are attempting varied approaches to deliver care in a model in which they are at risk for the total cost of care for the patient (an abrupt departure from the fee-for-service model). Healthcare solution providers continue to develop therapies for conditions with unmet medical needs but also are evaluating patient engagement beyond an episode of treatment as a means to ensure improved outcomes.  Almost all stakeholders are leveraging data and greater connectivity to better manage outcomes and identify costs in healthcare delivery that can be reduced or removed.

How have approaches to healthcare innovation changed in recent years?
The recognition that innovation in healthcare must deliver an economic benefit, or what I refer to as “economic innovation,” is a new approach. This will ensure that resources and investment will be focused on the areas of innovation that provide a balance of improved quality of care while reducing overall cost-of-care to the system.  Everyone familiar with the discussion of the growth in healthcare costs recognizes that the historic growth in healthcare spending is not sustainable, so delivering a balance of clinical and economic innovation is critical as a long-term solution.  All the stakeholders and participants in the healthcare system have recognized this necessity, and it will drive prioritization for investment, R&D dollars, human capital, and therapeutic focus to get the best return on these limited resources.

While documenting his Lean Launchpad class, Steve Blank recently wrote about the challenges facing today’s medical device startups. He says that existing medical device companies (like Abbott Vascular, for example)are driving incremental advances, but that “truly innovative devices” come from doctors and academia. What are your thoughts on this?
In order to address the numerous medical conditions that can benefit from therapeutic solutions that don’t exist today and to deliver more predictable results at a lower cost, we will need innovation from existing medical device companies, start-ups based on a single product or product line, physicians, and academia. I think existing medical device companies are very comfortable building a portfolio of solutions that include internally-discovered breakthrough innovation, novel therapies through acquisition of start-up technologies, and internal programs that may offer incremental advances that are tied to an economic benefit for the healthcare system.  I would agree that incremental for the sake of incremental will not be a winning proposition in the future but incremental improvements that yield more predictable clinical outcomes, expand access of a therapy to a broader patient group (perhaps more complex patients or higher risk with a greater degree of co-morbidities), or reduce cost-of-care will likely be rewarded.

What have you learned while leading Abbott Vascular that might be useful to entrepreneurs in the digital health space?
The promise of leveraging data to better understand patient populations to target therapies and resources or enhancing patient-provider communication to yield improved outcomes makes intuitive sense.  However, innovators of digital healthcare will need to demonstrate that an intuitive solution actually impacts patient outcomes to a degree that meaningfully enhances current therapy or reduces overall cost-of-care, or both.  Ensuring that the solution is scalable is also critical. The diversity of how healthcare is delivered within a country and especially in different countries with distinct healthcare systems can make implementation of a single solution impractical.  Ensuring the solution can be customized, if necessary, and scalable for broad use will be critical.


As divisional vice president (DVP) of global market development for coronary products at Abbott Vascular, Lance Scott leads strategic marketing activities and new product planning for the coronary product portfolio, including drug-eluting stents and bioresorbable technology.

Lance, who has been at Abbott for 22 years, is a proven business leader with experience in sales and marketing. Previously, he was DVP and general manager for the coronary business unit and DVP, global marketing, for all product lines. During his tenure, Abbott Vascular established worldwide leadership in drug-eluting stents with the launch of XIENCE V in the U.S., Japan and China, and the launch of Absorb, the world’s first fully bioresorbable vascular scaffold for the treatment of coronary artery disease.

Prior to his role at Abbott Vascular, Lance was the U.S. DVP for Abbott’s pharmaceutical products division’s specialty business. Lance also served as DVP and general manager of Abbott’s domestic virology business, managing the commercialization of Abbott’s HIV medications and strategic planning for the company’s virology pipeline, including new treatments for Hepatitis C.