Time for a Truce: To Radically Improve Maternal Health Outcomes, We Must Embrace Coopetition Among Institutions and Innovators

Time for a Truce: To Radically Improve Maternal Health Outcomes, We Must Embrace Coopetition Among Institutions and Innovators

Providers, Maternity, Health Innovation, Mission

Competition is everywhere. In every industry. It’s required to propel us forward, drive creativity and fuel innovation. It is the way a capitalistic society operates. But there is a point where ‘competition’ produces artificial barriers in order to deter change and dampen innovation.  When it comes to women’s health, and maternal health in particular, there is no more room for that kind of competition. It is time to remove all barriers and work together in a collective effort to solve the critical problems we are facing.

The healthcare perils facing women in this country are unsustainable and unacceptable, specifically when it comes to giving birth. Let us state the obvious one more time. The United States has the worst maternal mortality rate in the developed world. Maternal mortality has more than doubled since 2000, and rose a sobering 38% from 2020-2021. Outcomes are far worse for women of color, who experience a 2.6X higher risk of mortality.  Let’s be clear: Mortality means death. Meanwhile, the vast majority of these maternal deaths are preventable. 

We’ve known this for years. As an industry, as a country, we’ve tried for years to change it. And we’ve yet to succeed. 

That’s why Wildflower is calling for a truce and for an all hands on deck, coordinated attack from every corner. We are rooting for every single company in the women’s health space to be successful and asking the entrenched healthcare institutions to fully commit to the fight as well. 

At Wildflower, we believe we can make a major impact, but we are also realistic and humble enough to accept that we can’t solve this alone. No one organization can. It takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to ensure that child, and the child’s mother, experience a healthy pregnancy and birth. 

Our stance is simple. We believe all innovators, which include startups and established service providers, must thrive. At the same time, we need healthcare institutions, such as health plans and health systems, to also thrive. Most importantly, we need all these organizations to thrive together. Right now, collaboration must be prioritized.  

With this in mind, we wanted to share a few pieces of advice for institutions, innovators and for all of us collectively. 

For Institutions, No Risk Means No Reward

If you are part of the incumbent healthcare institution, you have to stop dipping toes in the water and place real bets on change. We should move with more urgency and intentionality, and established healthcare players can either thrust us forward or hold us back.

This means several things. For starters, you can’t continue to place all the risk on innovators and slow play your investment in potential solutions. The era of one-sided, small-scale pilots needs to be behind us. Healthcare institutions are demanding that innovators deliver real value. To be clear, they should.  But for innovators to respond to this call, take the chains off and set them up for success. This happens when institutional partners fully lean in and engage in meaningful ways.

Also, stop the never-ending RFI/P cycle, where we make innovators jump through hoops for months responding to questions from consultants that are nebulous at best. The worst part about this process is that it commonly ends with no decision being made.

Let’s start planting flags, and fast because we need to dramatically increase the speed that we’re moving. Again, this is largely up to the institutions to dedicate resources, align strategically with innovators you believe in and take the leap together.

For innovators, Don’t Say No to the Status Quo

Success doesn’t only hinge on institutions, though. Innovators have responsibilities, as well. Innovators are taking big risks in the name of meaningful change. That is noble. But these risks can’t be taken with little regard for the establishment.

We’ve said this before, but abandoning the status quo in healthcare is often not the best way to think creatively about new solutions. Too many innovators ignore how the current system operates in an effort to ‘move fast and break things.’  The problem with this approach in healthcare is that if you really break things, it can easily lead to life or death scenarios.  Because of this reality, innovators need to take a measured, collaborative approach to change in healthcare.  

The smarter bet is to be thoughtful with innovation and integrate so that you can work within the existing infrastructure, while charting a path to transition over time. This is how you partner well with institutions, not by trying to make them outdated and irrelevant, but by helping them transform from within for the collective good.

Coopetition Is the Only Path Forward

The future of women’s health requires a different approach to competition. We all need one another to be successful. We can’t pit innovators against innovators. We can’t pit innovators against institutions, or institutions against other institutions. There’s enough revenue and growth for all. So, let’s focus on the collective purpose at hand. If we fix maternal health outcomes, we all win. If we don’t, we all lose. It’s as simple as that. 

So instead of traditional competition, we need to engage in coopetition, which is defined as collaboration between competitors, in the hope of mutually beneficial results. Coopetition is a strategy deployed when there are potential benefits to all players in a specific space, collaborating with one another to grow the overall market. Or in this case, to collectively solve a mission-critical problem that ultimately is a win-win-win scenario. Whether you’re an innovator, an institution or most importantly, an individual giving birth in this country. 

Interested in learning more about what Wildflower means by coopetition? Or to join us in our mission to radically improve maternal health outcomes? Contact us today and let’s collaborate.