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Mehdi Tabrizi, CMO and Managing Director, Customer Experience and Innovation, Moda Health

Mehdi Tabrizi, CMO and Managing Director, Customer Experience and Innovation

Mehdi Tabrizi is the CMO and Managing Director of Customer Experience and Innovation for Moda Health, a Portland Oregon-based health insurance company providing medical, dental and pharmacy insurance in Oregon and Alaska. Ultimately Tabrizi’s job is to make sure Moda is a trusted and preferred brand in its market. That means creating a valued experience for Moda’s customers and members and communicating that...
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How is your team changing the game within your industry sector?

Prior to coming to Moda Health, I worked for one of the world’s most renowned customer experience, innovation and brand consulting agencies for over a decade. I was fortunate to partner with a lot of different companies around the world, from global Fortune 500 businesses to startups and across a very broad range of industries. My observation in working with those companies is that a culture of innovation requires a commitment at the highest level. That commitment has to include the right structure, resources and investments. Without that you’re not going to succeed in creating a culture of innovation. You might have an innovation project, but then it goes away. Once you have a strong commitment, you must have a strategy that is closely aligned with the company’s DNA and vision. If you’re a technology laggard, you cannot suddenly become a technology disruptor. However, you might decide to become a fast follower. You really need to have a strategy that fits within the context of your business. You also need to understand where your innovation focus should be, which domain you’ll concentrate on. Is it on the operations side, the product side, or the customer experience side?  You also need to have the right structure and leadership that can build the necessary competencies in the organization and bring in the right staff and skill sets.  Creativity is key to innovation, and therefore you need to have people with a creative background. Your innovation leaders need to have a rich understanding of what innovation is, how you build a strategy and how you put in place the processes to get there. It’s important to find people who are both passionate and can drive the innovation process. Finally, you must have the appropriate systems in place to support them.


What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your organization or industry sector?

In the health care industry, governmental policies and regulations can be a real impediment. Innovation often requires a long-term view of the market. But if every four years or so there’s a change in regulatory policy, it makes it very difficult to think long term. Also, I think there is often a lack of true innovation culture in health care organizations. Many of the people in health care have only worked in the healthcare industry and therefore they don’t have experience in other industries where innovation is better practiced. So, in health care, some of the impediments have to do skills, culture, policy and, in some cases, a lack of true competition, which can spur innovation. The industry is also very fragmented. We have a lot of small operators who don’t have the resources to both drive and scale innovation. However, I do think things are going to change. We’ll see the larger players push significant innovations, and the smaller players will either have to innovate or partner with organizations that have developed new technologies and platforms. More generally, I believe there is also a lack of expertise about the practice of innovation. For example, organizations need to understand and appreciate that not every innovation is going to succeed. Failure is an important part of the innovation process. To be successful, companies need to have the right mindset.


How has innovation become engrained in your organization's culture, and how is it being optimized?

Innovation needs to be inclusive. You have to empower people if you want to make innovation part of your culture. If companies want to make it part of their DNA, then everyone should take part. You need to celebrate your wins and understand that your failures are learning experiences that can also drive innovation forward. Another key factor is cognitive diversity. You need to celebrate diversity of people, backgrounds, thoughts and ideas. In organizations that are very hierarchical and top down, you often don’t have the flow of information and ideas. Innovation happens top to bottom, bottom to top and sideways.


What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?

Two of the big factors that are driving change in the health care industry are affordability and the consumer. The impact of Covid-19 has only increased the consumer dynamic. The virus has shown that it can affect any of us, no matter what our income, ethnicity or geographic location might be. And when it comes to safety and security, people want to be in control. To meet the needs of the consumer, health care needs digital transformation. Right now, it is behind most other industries. However, digital transformation is coming to health care and it will drive major changes at every level, whether its operations, experience, treatment, such as virtual care or remote care, or wellness, with things like wearables and remote devices. Another big trend is the shift to home care. Home and local care is going to become more prominent. The idea that every time you’re sick you go to a major hospital is changing. Something else we’ve seen coming for some time is the shift from fee-based to value-based reimbursement. That is an important trend that is changing our industry. Ultimately, in terms of technology, I think the confluence of data and digital will be a huge driver of change.


Can you share a specific innovation strategy you’ve recently encountered which you find compelling?

There is a lot of innovation going on in health care. Innovation can be compelling at a lot of different levels. There’s the offering—the product and service side. There’s operational innovation in terms of the business model, the network, and the infrastructure. One area that a lot of companies are focused on is engagement, which is the service side, the channel and the overall experience.  On the product offering and experience side, an example of an exciting innovation is ultrasound-to-go, in which a pregnant woman is given an ultrasound she can take home and hook it up to her phone, so the doctor can do an ultrasound without the woman having to leave her home. From an operations perspective we’re seeing diligent robotics that can take over many of the tasks now performed by nurses. There are new patient monitoring systems that take advantage of artificial intelligence and vision technology, so that patients can be effectively monitored without nurses having to enter the room. In terms of wellness, you’re seeing new solutions that help people with aerobic fitness and conditioning. There is increasing amount of innovation starting to take place in health care across the spectrum. It is a great time to be in healthcare. And the most rewarding part is that you have an opportunity to make a real difference.
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