University of South Florida

USF Health key driver in positioning Tampa Bay as hub of disruptive innovation in health care [VIDEO]


The Tampa Bay region is well positioned to become an epicenter for empowering innovation in health care with its strong portfolio of assets — including one of the country’s fastest growing universities (USF) with an innovative academic health center (USF Health), the state’s only NCI-designated cancer center, a thriving hospital and healthcare delivery system, and a large cluster of advanced medical device manufacturers.

But it will take commitment, collaboration, creativity, trust and leveraging of resources by all the region’s key healthcare players to connect the dots and realize the region’s full economic development potential.


Dr. Stephen Klasko, CEO of USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine, is one of the area’s influential leaders pushing for disruptive innovation of the healthcare industry in the Tampa Bay region.

That was the consensus of those who spoke May 13 at MediFuture 2023:  Healthcare Disrupted, a seminar presented by the Tampa-Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. and attended by nearly 500 business, community and university leaders.  The MediFuture goal was the brainchild of Rick Homans, CEO of the EDC;  Stephen Klasko, MD, MBA, CEO of USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine, and others who want the region to aim high in creating a patient-centered healthcare system where innovative thinking is the norm.

Dr. Klasko participated in one of event’s two panel discussions titled “Researching and Developing the Technologies of Tomorrow.” He was joined by William Dalton, MD, PhD, founder and CEO of M2Gen, and Dr. Leonard Polizzotto, vice president of Draper Laboratory.

The number of innovative products on the market today is about a third the level in the 1970s and entrepreneurs find it increasingly difficult to line up investors for start-up ventures, even though “our economy is awash in capital,” said keynote speaker Clayton Christensen, best-selling author and business professor at Harvard University. Christensen coined the term “disruptive innovation,” which he also calls “empowering innovation.”


Keynote speaker Clayton Christensen, a Harvard business professor, coined the term “disruptive innovation.”

Disruptive innovation, often driven by new technology, transforms complex products  and services into something that is affordable and accessible – and in the process creates jobs.

It is not the same as efficient innovation, which typically eliminates jobs while freeing up capital, or sustaining innovation that keeps improving the same product, possibly replacing jobs without the guarantee of creating additional ones.

An example of disruptive innovation in health care is the development of technology for kidney dialysis. That life-sustaining blood cleansing process has moved from hospitals to outpatient facilities, and the next stage of mobile technology now under development, Christensen said, will enable dialysis to be done safely at home, less expensively and with better outcomes for patients.

“It’s important to keep investing in sustaining innovation in our existing facilities, but what really creates opportunities is when we use the resources we have to enable lower-cost venues of care and lower-cost caregivers to do ever-more sophisticated things,” Christensen said. “You’ll be shipping those products around the world because people always use more when it becomes affordable and accessible.”


L to r: USF Health’s Dr. Klasko joined Dr. William Dalton of M2Gen and Dr. Leonard Polizzotto of Draper Laboratory in a panel discussion moderated by Alexis Muellner, managing editor of the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

Panel moderator Alexis Muellner, managing editor of the Tampa Bay Business Journal, asked Dr. Klasko and his fellow panelists to look 10 years into the future and trace what steps Tampa Bay leaders must take to make the opportunity for healthcare transformation a reality by 2023.Anchored downtown by USF Health CAMLS, Dr. Klasko said he envisions the area as a “mini-Silicon Valley” nationally known for its innovative information technology, biomedical engineering and common-sense solutions to health care.

“We will have developed the critical mass, learned from each other, invested in each other and behaved like a thriving cluster on the verge of a chain reaction,” he said. “The ability to create a one-stop shop for personalized medicine, medical tourism, leading simulation education, and clinical research turned out to be a major draw for companies.”


Dr. Klasko responds to the moderator’s question as Dr. Dalton, right, looks on.


He drew laughs and applause when he concluded:  “By 2023, it would be so obvious that the Tampa Bay area was the epicenter of innovative health care that the state legislature calls USF the ‘first really, really preeminent university in the state.”

Dr. Klasko and Dr. Dalton agreed that the region must break down any silos and move boldly, not incrementally, to become the center of change. It will take collective will and hard work to marshal the resources and creative partnerships needed.  Otherwise, Dr. Klasko said, those opportunities may be taken over by other organizations outside the state or country.

“As a community we’re going to have to decide whether we are truly going to be disruptive, which requires more capital and takes longer to realize the investment,” Dr. Dalton said.  “Tampa Bay can lead by demonstrating that we can create strategic partnerships, recognize who brings what to the table, and build the ecosystem to meet the needs of all the stakeholders in the healthcare system, including patients and clinicians.


Rick Homans, CEO of the Tampa-Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., which hosted MediFuture 2023. USF was a sponsor of the inaugural event.

A MediFuture 2023 group will reconvene June 26 at the USF Health Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation to begin creating the roadmap to achieve disruptive innovation in the region’s healthcare industry.

“There will be a lot of new products and services invented, developed and deployed to make this change happen, and there’s no reason why that can’t be done right here to create jobs in Tampa Bay,” Homans said.


Video by Allyn DiVito, USF Health Information Systems, and photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications

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