Introducing the Pitch Day Finalists: Medical Innovation By the People and For the People

Oct 14, 2013, 9:00 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

Entrepreneur Alex Fair has a vision for letting citizens decide which health care innovations the government should fund. He was one of eight finalists invited to pitch their ideas live and in person at the first-ever Pioneer Pitch Day. Read Fair's 1,000-character proposal below, and join the discussion on Twitter at #pioneerpitch.

Alex Fair is the co-founder and chief crowdologist of MedStartr, Inc. and an organizer of Health 2.0 NYC. You can follow him on Twitter at @alexbfair. Alex will co-present with Jeff Borenstein of MedStartr, Inc.

Pioneer: Congratulations on being a Pitch Day finalist! Tell us about the origins of your idea.

Alex Fair: Starting new ideas in health care is not easy and even if you succeed, the result is often not concordant with the original aims. I should know -- I have started 6 companies in the space and organize a community of thousands of healthcare innovators in NYC. I have seen hundreds of companies fail and dozens make it. One of these companies (that made it) was FairCareMD, an open marketplace for healthcare services that I created in 2010 after walking over 500 miles in NYC and speaking to over 2,200 physicians’ offices, resulting in 100 signups. After two years and hundreds of pitches I found that I needed to raise more capital and that the traditional route was not going to work, so I went to crowdfund it and found another problem -- crowdfunding for healthcare innovation was either not allowed or completely unsuccessful. So I asked my FairCareMD co-founder, Mike Pence, who also happened to have been the original development leader at Kickstarter, to whip us up a crowdfunding site. He did this in a matter of weeks and we were off to the races…but the crowd didn’t fund FairCareMD, they funded MedStartr. Ironic, but true.

Pioneer: What do you believe is the most innovative aspect of your idea?

Fair: The fact that anyone who has an idea and a crowd that cares about it can get found and funded fast. This has enabled many revolutionary ideas to succeed, from rare disease foundations, to new books, to commercial enterprises, to new ways to manage big open source data sets. We are enabling a revolution in healthcare, not just one innovation at a time, but as many as people can imagine.

Pioneer: Who is an innovative thinker who has inspired your own work — why and how?

Fair: Danae Ringelmann of Indiegogo deserves credit for creating this industry -- her work is foundational and inspirational here. Secondly, Clay Shirky in 2008 said that in order to change health care, patients would need to rise up and demand change before doctors, hospitals, and big companies would participate. Finally…passionate patient leaders like Regina Holliday, Sarah Kucharski, Mike Weiss, Sarah Krug and so many others who took their pain and turned it into a benefit for all patients are transforming medicine (and are) why we are inspired to help as much as we can every day.

Proposal Submission: Let Us Decide How Research Funding is Allocated: Medical Innovation By the People and For the People

New ideas are needed to make better medicines, develop better devices, and provide better care. These ideas are generally developed through grants and investments. While we pay the taxes and overpay for devices and medicines to fund this R & D, we have No Say in what ideas are selected for grants or investments. Of the 100 Billion dollars spent in 2011 on healthcare innovations, executives at pharma companies decided 50B; our government decided another 30B, and investors decided 17B. Isn't it time we, the people, had a say in what ideas come next medical innovation? We just ran the first ever government-sponsored contest to see where 40,000 taxpayer dollars would be invested, in which medical innovation. Would you believe that the public not only voted, but also kicked in another $16,000 of their own voluntarily! This is democracy in action where we decide what is best, and our government allocates funding accordingly. It works, now let's scale it up!

Got a pioneering idea of your own? We’d love to hear from you.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.