In Pursuit of Innovation February 16, 2012 by LeAnna J. Carey

On most Sunday’s you will find me roaming the National Gallery not thinking about innovation. However, in January, I had an unexpected surprise when I listened to curator Mary Morton lecture on the Great French Collections where innovation was a central theme. Curiosity got the best of me so I cornered one of the senior curators by the Degas exhibit for more information and she explained that had it not been for the innovation of a new product by American painter and inventor, John Goffe Rand who innovated the squeezable tube in 1841, we would not have had the exposure to Monet, Cezanne, Renoir and others, as the collapsible tube became one of the most important innovations to redefining how painting or art was approached. I’m guessing that Rand’s motivation was not accelerating change for the impressionist, but his passion for discovery, potentiality and innovation.

I had the same sense of a bit out of the ordinary when I interviewed Tom Lee, who recently launched a spinoff and standalone company from Fox ePractice, called Symplur, with Auden Utengen and Dr. Howard Luks. Tom’s business focus is to narrow the problems of the fragmented healthcare space by providing social media expertise to the broad array of stakeholders. I would have to agree from a market perspective, new users to social media find it difficult to leverage the interconnectedness of all the key relationships, chats, tools and knowledge.


Recognizing the need to lower the barrier for entry and understanding that talking is not doing, Tom and Auden Utengen launched the Healthcare Hashtag Project with input from Phil Bauman, Howard Luks, Andrew Spong, Mark Harmel and Dr. Jeff Benabio. The goal of the hashtag project is to make Twitter more accessible to engage in conversations and finding relevant healthcare information. I actually go beyond Forbes, assessment of the hashtag project as being a great resource; it’s innovation to the very definition. To get an idea of the reach there were 170 hashtags listed at launch and now 964 with over 30 million tweets in the database; here is a list of the top 5 most popular healthcare hashtags: #HITsm, #mhsm, #hcsmca, #hcsmin, #eldercarechat.

Why is this the Healthcare Hashtag project and Symplur relevant? If we were to look into the future a few years, we would see that Tom’s innovation:

1. Created communities with a visualization/organizational tool.
2. Leveraged perfect timing.
3. Engaged and credited other healthcare thought leaders in his ventures.

I ask myself after every interview what characteristics do innovators have that make them successful? Perhaps they have an extra dose of creativity, or less of rigid thinking, but, one thing is for sure – they intensely understand the essence of a problem and start innovating. Tom Lee keeps it simple by saying “I just like being a part of change.”


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