In my opinion, the number one reason we should all care so much about mobile health, telemedicine and health IT is because these are among the most promising emerging markets with significant potential to create new, sustainable, well-paying jobs for many of the millions of Americans currently unemployed — not to mention the millions of new workers that enter the workforce every year.

However, digital medicine is an immature market with more capital invested than revenue dollars generated, probably by several times, and we are still more than a few years from realizing robust and sustainable business activity from it.

One key element which could accelerate the growth of this market would be the concentrated investment in regional innovation systems. As production becomes more science-based, advantages such as a developed research infrastructure, a highly qualified workforce and an innovative culture are becoming more important than natural resources, so there are obvious investments made and policy measures taken which can increase regional competitiveness.

Michael Porter first showed that the United States’ competitive lead in innovation was predicated on the existence of regional innovation systems, or what he called “clusters”.(1*) Porter has also demonstrated this to be particularly true in new-economy sectors like biotechnology and information and communications (ICT) in states like Massachusetts and California, or new media in big city districts like Hollywood, Los Angeles and “Silicon Alley” in New York.(2*)

California is home to three of the five, in my totally subjective opinion, leading mobile health regional innovation systems in the US and arguably the world. The pace setter for the nation at the moment is San Diego, slightly edging out Boston for the top spot. Coming in third is the Silicon Valley, which is easily the most flush with raw talent, but in some ways incompatible culturally with the medical community. In fourth falls the mysterious Silicon Beach, a moniker coined by Patrick Soon-Shiong to describe his vision for transforming Los Angeles into the epicenter of mobile health, and its this commitment alone which earns the city a spot on my list. Minneapolis/St.Paul, home of Medtronic, rounds out my top five.

One of these five regions, or perhaps another currently lagging region, will likely emerge as THE destination for the most talented entrepreneurs, engineers and investors to converge as a united front in friendly competition.

While I intend to analyze each in depth in the future, the news of the past few weeks has had my attention focused on Silicon Valley and Silicon Beach and reminded me of the importance of regional dynamics in fostering entrepreneurship and innovation. Both Silicon Valley and Silicon Beach have demonstrated themselves to be dynamic regional innovation hubs, generating significant new wealth and economic growth during the evolution and maturation of America’s technology and media/entertainment industries respectively.

Millions of talented young men and women from all over the world have gravitated to these two communities, and ultimately to each other, in the pursuit of the next big thing or the silver screen because this was where they could find the resources necessary to achieve their goals. Many of these individuals are now the billionaire entrepreneurs and movie/reality television stars that have come to epitomize American industry and pop culture. But can these regions replicate their past success and become beacons for multidisciplinary talent and entrepreneurial vision necessary to build sustainable businesses in digital medicine?

Only time will tell…

Sources:

  • (1*) Michael Porter, The Competitive Advantage of Nations (New York, The Free Press, 1990). (Amazon)
  • (2*) Michael Porter, On Competition (Boston, MA, Harvard Business School Press, 1998). (Amazon)