AANS Annual Meeting Spotlight: Idea Economy — It’s Not Brain Surgery

hs2Jessica Rabski, MD (left)
Neurosurgical Resident, University of Ottawa
Ottawa, Canada

Eve C. Tsai, MD, PhD, FAANS, FRCSC (right)
Suruchi Bhargava Spine and Brain Regeneration Chair
Assistant Professor, Neurosurgery, The Ottawa Hospital, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
University of Ottawa
Ottawa, Canada

meg2222“My job is not life and death.”

These words were spoken by Meg Whitman at this year’s 2017 AANS Annual Scientific Meeting in Los Angeles. Whitman, the 2017 Cushing Orator, assertively took to the stage and captivated the audience immediately with her intriguing introduction to the Idea Economy and its unlimited potential in the advancement of medicine. This statement exemplifies her humble nature, and in no way depreciates her well-known understanding of the power and influences her expertise, wisdom and insight have had on the innovation and advancement in the field of business. Meg Whitman is an American business executive and political activist, who is currently the president and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise.

Whitman emphasized that in today’s business world, the ability to turn ideas into usable products has become remarkably simplified and success is dependent on how quickly one can turn their ideas into something functional. Failure results from the inability to respond and compete with new technological threats. We have essentially entered an age of “digital disruption” in business and will inevitably see it in the field of medicine. Uber, Airbnb and Spotify were cited as examples of “disruptive” businesses that utilized the Idea Economy.

Even though Whitman’s explanations and short video clips of the seven major trends in the Idea Economy were intriguing and captivating, it was her final remarks which were most impressionable. She introduced a list of personal key principles that she reflects upon when guiding her business decisions. She shared them with the hopes of motivating and encouraging her neurosurgical audience with their innovative efforts.

  1. She stressed that you need to have the right person, at the right time, in the right place, with the right attitude which can be particularly challenging and frustrating to find. This means if the combination is not right then one can’t force it to work. This is a concept that is difficult for most neurosurgeons to accept.
  1. Next, you must focus on the customer since customer service in health care has never been so important. She attested to the importance of actively listening to others while maintaining an open mind since “you do not know what you do not know.” Our patients provide us with unique insight and perspectives that we need to acknowledge to create solutions that properly address their actual problems.
  1. Also, you need to disrupt yourself before someone else disrupts you! Whitman highlighted the importance of constantly thinking of new ideas and ways of doing everyday tasks rather than remaining stagnant. Change is inevitable, whether you embrace it or have it thrust upon you.
  1. Her fourth principle involved creating efficient cost structures to ensure sustainability of our ideas and to ensure the efficient use of limited resources in health care. This crucial concept ensures the success of our ideas and prevents lack of buy-in due to limited finances.
  1. Her last principle, simple but true, emphasized the need to have thick skin. To be brave, follow through with one’s ideas and handle the pressure. This concept is pressed upon surgeons from an early stage and ultimately ensures our professional advancement and obsession with striving for surgical

Whitman’s speech not only offered a glimpse into the ever-evolving world of business, but it also provided insight into an intriguing challenge that physicians should be eager to tackle — how to utilize Idea Economy to better our patients’ treatments, experiences and overall welfare. As physicians, we have unique insight into the technical failings of our health care system and are privileged to have our patient’s share their experiences, feelings and opinions with us. Today’s technology can help us realize our ideas more efficiently, thereby allowing us to focus more on the impact of our innovations and improving their quality and efficacy. Whitman was both inspiring and informative and hopefully sparked the interest of neurosurgeons to “disrupt” their ordinary ways of thinking and to create solutions to better the lives of their patients. This challenge is quite exciting, and as such, we are grateful to Whitman for having initiated this spark!

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