What is the health business ecosystem?

I googled ‘business ecosystem’ the other day and got over 56 million hits. Not so long ago, ecosystems were only mentioned in a biological sense: as a complex set of natural actors and sources. This has changed. Ecosystem seems to be thé buzzword for business people: trendy, hot, but also vague – even for people who use and promote it.

Also wondering what a ‘business ecosystem’ is? I’ll try to explain it here; specifically for healthcare entrepreneurs.

What is it and where does it come from?

How companies compete (and cooperate) with each other has changed over the years. Whereas competition used to be based on low prices or efficiency, global economy makes this increasingly difficult. Moreover, this digital age favors new products and services, and uses new advantages and talents. Classical competition and classic sector classifications therefore no longer apply.

It was Harvard Professor of Public Health, James Moore, who first introduced the term ‘ecosystem’ into an economic analysis in 1993. So another discovery that started in health… .

In his article, Moore pointed to the end of the classic market competition in a digital world, making way for new forms of analysis and cooperation. He stated that organizations will work together within ecosystems: large, complex networks of players connecting and cooperating in function of growth or prosperity.

Typical features of a business ecosystem are:

  • strong relationships between 2 or more stakeholders in a sector
  • co-evolution: players influence each other. Because of this dynamic, change will take place
  • co-creation: cooperation with a common goal
  • players use and form a platform: a set of common tools, services and technology

Originally, ‘business ecosystems’ were used to measure and analyze regional economic development. So mainly by governments and within economic research. The analytic level of an ecosystem is perfect to explore dynamics and innovations. Classical NACE-codes for sector analysis do not reflect new tendencies in health and care, as new actors and new types of entrepreneurship enter the health market.

So, knowing and monitoring your health ecosystem definitely can make a difference for  companies nowadays.

This is also the case in health care: new parties enter the market; new channels deliver health; and new technologies make new products and services possible. The variety and dynamics of the market can no longer be defined in classical classes.

What can you learn from the ecosystem?

For new suppliers entering the market, or for health organisations changing their strategies, taking a photo of the business ecosystem will be increasingly important. This makes it possible to identify (and change) your own position, to build relationships with partners, to identify new customers and maybe to adapt your business model.

Knowing and monitoring your business ecosystem helps you identifying your assets and possibilities: what is my unique point, how many others are using the same; what makes me different; who can help me to be prepared for the future?  Use the business ecosystem to get a dynamic photo of your market and your market position.


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