The Technology Adoption Lifecycle Applied to Healthcare

By Eric Bricker, MD

The Technology Adoption Lifecycle was explained in Geoffrey Moore’s famous book ‘Crossing the Chasm.’

Eric Bricker, MD

Geoffrey Moore’s influential book “Crossing the Chasm” provides valuable insights into how disruptive innovations are adopted within populations. This framework is crucial for understanding and applying innovation in healthcare and health insurance, where transformative solutions often require significant behavior change and acceptance from diverse stakeholder groups.

If you are interested in innovation in healthcare and health insurance, you MUST understand and apply the Technology Adoption Lifecycle.

It states that disruptive innovation (i.e., innovations that require behavior change) is not evenly adopted across a population.

Rather, people segment themselves into sub-groups that adopt the new innovation differently.

1. Early Adopters: These individuals are characterized by their enthusiasm for new innovations simply because they are novel. Early adopters, constituting approximately 17% of the population, are often driven by the desire to tinker and experiment with new ideas. They possess a high tolerance for risk and are willing to invest time and resources in exploring emerging technologies or concepts. Importantly, they are typically less price-sensitive compared to other segments, prioritizing innovation and novelty over cost considerations.

2. Pragmatists: Pragmatists represent around 33% of the population and are motivated by specific problems that the innovation can solve. Unlike early adopters, who embrace innovation for its own sake, pragmatists seek tangible benefits and practical solutions to existing challenges. They are inclined to adopt new solutions if they observe others benefiting from them, relying on real-world evidence and peer recommendations to guide their decisions. While pragmatists are somewhat price-sensitive, they prioritize the utility and effectiveness of the innovation, weighing potential benefits against associated costs.

3. Conservatives: This segment, also comprising about 33% of the population, tends to resist adopting new innovations unless they are seamlessly integrated into existing products or services they already use. Conservatives are inherently cautious and risk-averse, preferring familiarity and stability over novelty and change. They are highly price-sensitive and value proven solutions with a track record of reliability and effectiveness. To engage conservatives, innovators must demonstrate clear advantages and address concerns related to compatibility, ease of use, and cost-effectiveness. Moreover, innovations that align with existing habits and workflows are more likely to gain traction among this segment, highlighting the importance of integration and seamless implementation.

4. Skeptics: Skeptics, making up the remaining 17% of the population, are resistant to adopting new innovations under any circumstances. They are deeply skeptical of change and may hold strong beliefs or preferences that are incompatible with disruptive innovations. Skeptics often require substantial evidence or reassurance to overcome their skepticism, and even then, they may remain reluctant to embrace new technologies or concepts.

To spread a new innovation, one must cross the chasm between the early adopters and pragmatists with a ‘niche’ and ‘bowling pin’ strategy.

Implications for Self-Funded Health Plans:

Better health, higher healthcare quality, and lower healthcare costs require behavior change by default. Employee health plan innovations MUST be disruptive to be effective. Show me a non-disruptive employee health plan innovation and I will show you one that does not work.

The Technology Adoption Lifecycle for disruptive health plan innovations applies across your employee and plan member population as well—there are early adopters, pragmatists, conservatives, and skeptics within your plan population.

Alternative health plans are specifically designed to be ‘baked-in’ to the health insurance plan with no additional party for plan members to contact. That ‘baked-in’ characteristic is VERY important in having the conservative members of the plan use the innovation. If you don’t ‘bake-in’ solutions, you will lose the conservatives. They will not engage, and the program will not be nearly as successful as it could be.

The Technology Adoption Lifecycle provides a valuable framework for understanding how disruptive innovations are adopted within populations, including in the context of healthcare and health insurance. By recognizing the distinct preferences and tendencies of early adopters, pragmatists, conservatives, and skeptics, innovators can tailor their strategies to effectively navigate the adoption process and maximize the impact of their innovations.


‘Crossing the Chasm’ by Geoffrey Moore mcdonalds-in-2018/ transformation/mercer-national-survey-benefit-trends.html 

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