Collaborating for Innovation

Conflict of interest. Does it have to dominate the agenda when public-private partnerships address healthcare? And, how can such partnerships lead to more and better innovation?

These were two key questions explored during TEDMED’s latest in-depth discussion of the Great Challenges of health and medicine. Our diverse group of experts provided some insightful and thought-provoking answers. The participants, who ranged from game theorist to pediatric ethicist, discussed obstacles they’ve found as collaborators in public-private partnerships and potential solutions to make these relationships more effective. Dan Munro, a Forbes contributor, moderated the event.

One of the biggest issues identified throughout the discussion was the lack of clarity and “game rules” when it comes to public-private partnerships. Myra Christopher, the Kathleen M. Foley Chair in Pain and Palliative Care at the Center for Practical Bioethics, explained that there are at least 53 different definitions of public-private partnerships. Myra noted, “there is a real cry-out for better and common understanding about the current game rules.”

Another issue that came to the forefront during the discussion was conflict of interest. With so many players in public-private partnerships, it’s hard to avoid conflicts of interest. However, John Tyler, the General Counsel and Corporate Secretary for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, noted that, “conflicts of interest should not be an impediment. They should not be a barrier, but they should be understood and efforts should be made to try to manage them.” From John’s perspective, one way to make public-private partnerships more effective is to see the opportunity instead of the conflict, which can most likely be mitigated.

David McAdams, a game theorist and Professor of Economics in the Fuqua School of Business and Department of Economics at Duke University, also encouraged looking for the potential opportunities in challenging situations. When asked what the great challenges facing public-private partnerships in the next 20 years are in the context of shrinking resources, David responded that this might not necessarily be a bad thing. With fewer resources “you’re forced to try more creative innovation,” David noted.

With regards to the medical community, Skip Nelson, the Deputy Director and Senior Pediatric Ethicist in the Office of Pediatric Therapeutics, Office of the Commissioner at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, brought up the issue of incentives. As grant funding is shrinking, “we need to find new ways of valuing what people are doing and promote them appropriately within those institutions.”

Polina Hanin, Academy Director at StartUp Health, brought up the idea of adopting an entrepreneur as a potential method of using public-private partnerships to foster innovation. Doing so would “allow [the entrepreneur] to see the intricacies and work flows that are really going to allow them to create a solution that’s going to work for the community… the organizations, and the patients that these startups are actually trying to help in the long-run.”

The participants agreed that at the core of any public-private partnership there must be trust and transparency. Once we “quit being such skeptics,” as Myra put it, there’s the potential for public and private entities to begin effectively collaborating for innovation.

If you missed the live event, catch the recast here: https://tedmed.com/greatchallenges/liveevent/497919, and stay tuned for our next Great Challenges hangout on Addressing Healthcare Costs next Thursday, December 11 at 12PM EST.