From exchange to ecosystem: Reimagining value in health and care


From exchange to ecosystem: Reimagining value in health and care

The need to advance value in health and care presents numerous challenges for companies, providers, payers and policymakers.

Now more than ever, complex, fast-evolving markets and systems demand advanced capabilities for sensing value-based innovation, growth and transformation opportunities, for designing adaptive organisations, strategy and value propositions, and for sustaining value-creation through continuous learning and renewal.

To realise higher value, companies and organisations can no longer rely on limited disease-based reductionist thinking, on narrow outcome-over-cost measures of value, on technology-driven innovation, on piecemeal ideas-first methods or on serendipitous, safe-to-fail experimentation. 

In short, a new, more expansive ecosystem perspective of value is needed – one that achieves higher forms of systemic value on a more sustained, viable and adaptive basis. 

What is ecosystem value?

But what is ecosystem value? How does it differ from established perspectives on value in health, and what are they? How do existing beliefs influence how health value is created and evaluated by various stakeholders? How can we better understand and overcome current assumptions to discover alternative, more transformative and longer-term paths for ecosystem value-creation? 

This paper addresses these questions. In it, I define four varieties of value in health and care. I describe their defining elements and mechanisms and, using an example from industry, I outline a roadmap for co-creating health ecosystem value

Read on to discover a new perspective for advancing value in health and care, for an exploration of novel value-creation possibilities, and to gain new insight in how to realise and continuously nurture value contextually, sustainably … and ECOsystemically.


Many of the greatest social, economic and political thinkers have explored the rather vague and subjective concept of value. Aristotle in 5 BC, Adam Smith, Ricardo and Marx in the 18th and 19th centuries, and many more since, all sought to define value, identify its different forms, describe its elements and extract the various implications of different conceptions on pricing, markets, labour, production, consumer relationships and many other areas. Whilst fiercely debated, two primary conceptions of value became most widely understood and most pervasive in political, and especially economic and business thinking. First described by Aristotle, these became known as value-in-exchange and value-in-use.

In the last decade or so, a third form of value has emerged from the marketing field. In response to new awareness and understanding of the increasing role of customers in the value-creation process, this extended, more dynamic form of value incorporates and adds to the exchange and use conceptions. Called value-in-context, it acknowledges and seeks to better explain the complex, multiple determinants of value-creation involving many actors co-creating knowledge, products, services and experiences in more unique and diverse ways, and in context to their particular circumstances. 

Much more recently, emerging from value-in-context, a fourth form of value is being advanced too. Though not yet really given a separate identity, I call this form of value, value-in-ecosystem.

In this paper, I explore the four different forms of value – exchange, use, context and ecosystem. I examine the assumptions that define each, their content or elements, the roles of producers and consumers (and others) in their practices of creation, their limitations and consequences, and their main differences. I illustrate each with examples from health and care. Also, I describe a path of value evolution through the four forms using a single case-study. This is of a wound care company seeking to transform its value profile and perspective to realise the highest form of value – ecosystem value. I explain how it can do so sustainably, systemically and with positive impact for itself, patients, health professionals and other important stakeholders.   

Download the full paper

To access the full paper, download from the Umio website via registration, or contact me to request a copy. If you would like to learn more, I am always happy to chat.


Healthcare Technology Innovation: Addressing Flaws in Inputs, Process and Assessment


Healthcare Technology Innovation: Addressing Flaws in Inputs, Process and Assessment

In healthcare technology innovation, there is a tendency towards a solution-first mindset and approach.

  • A better approach is to first identify, understand, measure, prioritise, segment and synthesise the unmet needs of multiple healthcare ecosystem actors.

  • Yet doing so hinges on resolving the problems of flawed definitions and wrong inputs at the front-end of the healthcare technology innovation process.

  • With the right units of analysis, the correct inputs defined and the proper innovation sequence followed, previously hidden opportunities for healthcare technology innovation can be revealed, market-based strategies devised and new product (and service) concepts generated to address important areas of unmet need.

  • In this article, I describe how to reduce innovation costs whilst improving the efficacy and success rates of novel healthcare and clinical technologies, products and services.



Transforming health and care ecosystems: A model of value evolution

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In any health or care service ecosystem (a set of health service co-creation practices organised around common contexts of purpose, beneficiary actors and situation), I identify seven classes of value proposition that may be designed and introduced, whether individually or in combination. These are: Value-in-function, value-in-experience, value-in-sensing, value-in-learning, value-in-flow, value-in-diversity and value-in-transformation. Each is distinguished by the purpose, nature and form of the value embodied in the proposition, and the nature of outcomes or value that may be realised in the ecosystem. In brief, they are as follows:

  1. Value-in-function – These propositions allow ecosystem actors to attain or improve core functional or clinical outcomes for a service for a health context, such as prevent disease, diagnose a condition, treat an illness or manage a condition, amongst others.
  2. Value-in-experience – Propositions in this class focus on creating or improving the experience that beneficiary actors (patients and health seekers) and service providing actors (e.g., clinicians) have when interacting with tangible and intangible resources, with other actors and when performing or obtaining services in health service ecosystems.
  3. Value-in-sensing – This class of value enables actors to sense and detect patterns, identify, respond and adapt to risks, changes, problems and opportunities. They provide a greater peripheral and predictive capability to deal with problems.
  4. Value-in-learning – Learning propositions help actors to better understand cause and effect, remember patterns and relationships, provide instruction and guidance, co-create new knowledge and help actors assimilate it to make smarter and better adaptations.
  5. Value-in-flow – Flow is an important class of proposition. These interventions seek to connect actors within and across practices in an ecosystem, and in doing so, amplify the flow of learning, sensing, experience and functional value. Flow propositions support the sharing of knowledge; they enable collaboration and monitoring, and boost adaptive capacity and overall ecosystem wellbeing. Also, they may increase access of actors into ecosystem services, and reduce inequities in service provision.
  6. Value-in-diversity – Diversity value propositions support actors to be more creative, allowing them to respond to unique situations and adapt services to their particular circumstances. They promote variation and divergence from established routines and standard ways of “doing things around here”. A lack of diversity is often the reason for health service ecosystems becoming stuck and complex health problems arising and persisting. Building diversity through values innovation, adaptive technology and organisational design leads to greater ecosystem resilience. Also, divergent contexts may be introduced into a service ecosystem from adjacent ecosystems, changing the boundaries of service context, enabled by new connective (flow) technologies.
  7. Value-in-transformation – Finally, transformation value propositions overhaul individual or multiple practices, or whole health service ecosystems. They may seek to shift services at one level of co-creation practice to another, to combine practices from within or from adjacent ecosystems, to eliminate ineffective practices, or redesign new service ecosystems altogether. Transformative propositions are needed when the adaptive capacity of an ecosystem is no longer sufficient to address complex persistent system problems. This can occur when there is a dominant, entrenched logic that persists, is routinised, and where outcomes plateau or worsen

The Service Ecosystem Evolution Spiral

The sequence of the seven value proposition classes listed above is significant. Each successive class of value in the list expands the total amount of value co-created in each and all of the preceding classes. In other words, each class moving through the sequence holds greater value co-creation opportunity within a health ecosystem. This value-intensifying dynamic is expressed as follows:

Function enables a service to be performed or improved or disrupted for a purpose and beneficiary actor; Experience enhances and may differentiate function; Sensing allows actors to detect problems, risks and opportunities; Learning reinforces the ability and memory to sense and adapt; Flow connects interactions and co-creation practices and enables collaboration; Diversity builds wider perspective, and boosts adaptive capacity, and Transformation is needed when adaptation has reached its limits, an ecosystem becomes unsustainable or in crisis.

I illustrate the seven classes in the form of a logarithmic or golden spiral shown above, a frequently occurring pattern in natural ecosystems found in multiple species and environmental contexts[1]. I call this the Service Ecosystem Evolution Spiral (this applies to all service ecosystems, not just health). I use a spiral metaphor as it represents a universal path of value evolution that any health innovator can pursue to know where and how to co-create value.

A health innovator can search for opportunities by studying practices in the ecosystem using the value classes as a guide to explore and understand problems, resources and shortcomings in adaptive capabilities. In any ecosystem at any time, multiple value propositions in each class are being co-created, introduced, adapted and used. The situation is always dynamically emerging.

In an Umio study, after carefully framing a health service ecosystem, we capture metrics for each of the value classes. These help identify and prioritise unmet needs and opportunities for improvement and intervention of all kinds - products, experiences, services, technologies, drugs, devices, collaboration, strategies, organisations etc.

For more on the model, to see example value propositions of the different value classes and to learn how to design and transform value in health ecosystems, download my publication from the Umio website.

Alternatively, why not come along to one of my upcoming half-day introductory Value Design for Health Ecosystems workshops, details for which are below. It would be very good to explore and apply my thinking with you there. Early birds still available...


[1] Examples of the golden spiral in nature include sunflower seed heads, pinecones, snail and nautilus shells, spiral galaxies, hurricanes and the aerial spiral formed by a peregrine falcon when stalking its kill. 


A healthy future demands an ecosystem view of value and design


A healthy future demands an ecosystem view of value and design

Today’s complex health and care systems are buckling under the pressures of chronic problems and ever-tightening resources. Whilst there is always optimism that some new technologies will come to the rescue, many are not adopted, do not scale and fail to realise their ambitions. They do not create enough of the right value to make a big enough difference.

To me, it seems that many of our best efforts merely just slice, dice and recombine underperforming parts of the clinical failure-repair and recovery health system. They are designed within a narrow frame of logic, understanding and action … and value.

I say this need not be the case. I believe it is time to think differently, more widely and even more radically in order to discover and realise more valid possibilities for improving, transforming and redesigning value in health systems.

You may be working with a new technology and strategy already, navigating and maybe stuck on your own complex path towards adoption. Or are looking afresh, seeking new ideas, growth or service opportunities.

Whichever the case and whether in industry, a provider or in government, in this article I will explain how you can better succeed by following some important ecological principles.

Indeed, ecology – the study of interactions between and within species and the environment – can guide us to think and act differently. It provides many important and valid foundations for designing and transforming value in health, care and related social systems.

To discover and realise transformative possibilities in health, as in anything, I believe it is essential to find novel, smarter ways to undertake and connect two fundamental activities These are first, obtaining deeper INSIGHT into the current situation – what is going wrong and why, and second, widening our IMAGINATION of what is realistically possible

And we mustn’t just undertake and combine these activities just once. We must embark on a never-ending repeat journey from one to the other, and back again.

Due to sheer complexity of the systemic health problems we face, there is not really any defined map to help us. But I will show you that there are certain rules and principles we can adhere to. And certain mental equipment that we can acquire, carry and deploy along the way.

Indeed, along this journey are four staging-posts – four important steps that allow us to connect insight with imagination, and to better discover and realise valid or realistic opportunities for value creation in health systems - or ecosystems as I will call them.

And these steps form the four components of my framework for designing and transforming value in health, care and social ecosystems. Or Health Value Design as I call it.

So, let’s head to our first stage-post – FRAMING.

Don't want to read? Watch me present the framework instead in the video below.


When faced with a complex system, the first thing we need to find do is a way to break down the challenge into smaller parts. We need to reduce complex health and care systems into practically useful frames to capture insight, discover opportunities and take valid, useful action.

Fortunately, we can learn from ecologists, who do exactly this. They break down the complex earth ecosystem into smaller discrete systems using common units or contexts to distinguish one from another. Typically, these contexts are;

  1. A type of primary producer species that sits at the bottom of the ecosystem food chain. They are called primary producer because they perform the vital role of converting energy resources (such as light, water, soil) into food resources for all other species in an ecosystem. The presence, capabilities and health of primary producers provides the basis for an ecosystem’s existence and functioning.
  2. The nature of the environment itself (e.g., desert, coastal, forest) which determines the type, quantity and quality of resources available to the primary producer, and therefore overall ecosystem health and functioning. 

What do these contexts tell us about how to frame health ecosystems? Well, we can identify and frame individual health ecosystems using similar contexts. These are:

1)    A particular patient group (with single or multiple disease or condition states) such as persons with diabetes or heart disease (or both even) or a population group such as the elderly frail or newborn babies.

2)    The characteristics of health and care resources available to the ecosystem. These may be human, economic, technological, cultural or knowledge resources. I call this context the health resource environment.

Of course, health ecosystems in advanced western economies have access to different resources than those in lower income countries ... In this sense, like natural ecosystems, the SITUATION or the place of location of health ecosystems can be used as an important context to distinguish them too. 

Using these contexts, we can frame individual health ecosystems that exist in multiple locations – in different countries, and across multiple regions or communities. 

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Just as in natural ecosystems, individual health ecosystems are adjacent to one another. Adjacent social ecosystems such as housing, education, energy, and food production and consumption contain many of the social determinants of ill-health and so we must add these alongside our framing too. Doing so means we look can much broader for health value-creation opportunities. We have a wider canvas to search and understand what is happening.


In fact, there is one more context we can use to frame a health ecosystem. For that we need to head the second staging-post ... health ecosystem functioning.


The second component of the framework reveals how health ecosystems function and the actors and other elements that constitute them. Again, we can learn from ecology here.

To survive and reproduce, species in individual natural ecosystems not only compete with one another but often interact in more mutually beneficial relationships by sharing resources with one other. In all ecosystems, certain species work together to perform a number of complimentary tasks that are vital to maintain or recover the health of the primary producer species and therefore the health of the ecosystem overall.

Ecologists call these teams of species - functional service groups – and they can be identified according to their nature of their interaction with the ecosystem, or their PURPOSE.

Increasingly ecologists recognise that the presence and capabilities of certain species in these functional service groups is more critical than diversity alone in maintaining and recovering the health of a natural ecosystem.

Whether in functional service groups or at the level of all species interactions, natural ecosystems can be conceived as resource-sharing and integrating service systems. The same is true of health ecosystems – or more correctly health service ecosystems.

Influenced by values, meanings and their role, actors (people, patients, clinicians, industry, providers, government) develop, share and integrate resources to access, perform, obtain or use health services. These services can be defined according to their purpose, such as to prevent illness, or improve, maintain or recover the health of a beneficiary actor – the patient or population group that benefits from the services.


We can define the purpose from the point of view of the beneficiary actor too – to improve personal quality of life, manage a chronic condition such as pain, or recover from a trauma – for example.

So, to complete our framing, I add one or more PURPOSE to further distinguish individual health ecosystems. 

When we set Purpose, we also frame an INTENT or a direction of future value-creation or transformation. Knowing a purpose and what is preventing actors from achieving it with the resources available to them helps guide and inform a more robust search for future possibilities for improving, transforming or disrupting a health ecosystem.

Below are a few examples of fully framed health ecosystems showing the four contexts of Purpose, Situation, Health Resource Environment and a Beneficiary Actor – along with the Adjacent Ecosystems.

With framing and functioning defined, we can now study an individual health ecosystem to better understand problems, variations, resources used, gaps and paradoxes in the desire and ability of actors to achieve the defined purpose.


But before we do, we need to organise our enquiry to discover opportunities for improvement or transformation. Let’s explore this at our next staging post – STRUCTURE.


In all natural ecosystems, ecologists define a hierarchy consisting of different levels and types of interactions between and within species. Starting with a single organism at the lowest level, then a single species, each higher level defines a wider variety of interactions between increasingly more diverse populations and communities of species - up to the highest level of the ecosystem overall.

It just so happens that it is possible to identify a universal hierarchy of actors and interactions within any framed health service ecosystem too.

Consisting of eight levels, each level denotes a particular configuration of actors – or what I call a CO-CREATION PRACTICE - interacting in different ways with their own and other actors’ resources to provide, perform or obtain services. Let’s look at these different practices briefly.

At Level 1.0 are practices of interaction in the body and mind of beneficiary actors.

Level 2.0 defines the personal interactions that beneficiary actors – patients – have when on their own with their and others’ resources such as devices, drugs and other technologies.

Level 3.0 denotes the social or peer interactions that beneficiaries have with their family, friends or other people with similar conditions.  

Levels 4-8 progress then through increasingly more complex practices that take place between the beneficiary and specialist health actors, and within and between health service teams, organisations, and overseer bodies.


For any health service ecosystem, we can map the practices of actors using this hierarchy. We can also map pathways through them. Doing so provides a universal structure for choosing and organising enquiry and for capturing deep understanding of ecosystem-level problems, patterns, relationships, trends and opportunities.

What’s more, all this can be done before we even start thinking about or assuming what solutions might be best. As well as when we already have a technology, solution or plan. In either case, all this insight can be captured objectively and independent of any bias or assumptions about how to address them.

This means that we can reveal novel possibilities for intervention or change of any kind. Not just for new technology, drug and device innovation but also for innovative provider health services, community initiatives, new forms of collaboration, and new health policies and programmes.  We can also learn how to design new health ecosystems altogether.

To know how to do all this more effectively, we need to move along to our final stage-post – ADAPTATION


All natural ecosystems are in various states of dynamic adaptation. Any given state depends on the balance of available environmental resources, the health of the primary producer species, and the presence and capabilities of certain key species and functional service groups.

Some ecosystems are in a sustaining state, some are emergent, others are rigid or collapsing, and may be losing or have lost their resilience to cope with the decline of energy resources or the primary producer. In most cases though, a natural ecosystem contains a mixture of all these states in different degrees.

The same is true of health ecosystems. They too are in various mixed states of evolution, adaptation, stability or decline. Using the structure I have just defined, we can now see if, where and how our individual health ecosystem is changing or evolving.

We can see within-practice level, top-down, bottom-up, adjacent and disruptive forces of change – and respond to the weak signals and realities of those forces – more appropriately.

We can understand the influence, nature, dynamics and consequences of lots of different factors on the nature and form of adaptation – or what is known as the adaptive capacity of the ecosystem. Factors such as:

  1. Gaps in beneficiary and professional actor capabilities, their knowledge and resources available
  2. Variation in actor values which can sometimes lead to conflict.
  3. Resource types, cost and use including technologies
  4. Care access and equality issues
  5. The nature and influence of the social determinants in adjacent-to-clinical social contexts and
  6. The root causes of problems

And most importantly, how they all affect beneficiary actor outcomes, and why and how these outcomes vary. Because when we know these factors more deeply, we can also better discover and assess more, - more valid and more novel opportunities to intervene or improve your health ecosystem – or even transform it. 

So instead of thinking in limited terms of improving outcomes and reducing cost – or fixing repair–recovery health care systems through greater efficiency and productivity - we can now adopt a far different and more bolder ambition. One that seeks to understand and advance the adaptive capacity of individual levels or of an entire health ecosystem, the constraints acting on it and the key drivers for evolving it.

And wherever you intervene, each of the levels of the ecosystem tells us which combination of design approaches are most appropriate to deploy, as shown below (examples of design approaches).


I stress here that when you embrace the ambition of adaptive capacity, you will also understand how to develop your own adaptive capacity. When you do, you will develop more novel ideas, designs, business models, technologies, services, strategies, teams and organisations for improving or transforming the wellbeing and health of health ecosystems and not forgetting… most importantly, people and patients’ healthy lives.

In short, you will acquire new or better imagination for seeing and designing novel possibilities for value creation that are desired by actors, and sought by decision-makers. As well as for shaping those ideas and technologies you are already working with.


And so we have reached the end of our brief journey through framing, functioning, structure and adaptation – the four components of the Umio Health Value Design framework - a framework for better connecting deeper insight into the current situation in complex health ecosystems with a broader imagination of the novel possible.

In this article, I have only scratched the surface of the framework. If you would like to learn more, why not attend one of my upcoming half-day masterclasses in Europe, US and Canada. Further details and to book can be found here.

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You can also download my publication - Design and Transform Value in Health: A Service Ecosystem Framework, available here.

Alternatively, do get in touch or follow me on my journey with Umio today. 

Twitter: @chrislawer / @umiohealth



Eight Styles of Customer Value Co-Creation: A Design Framework


Eight Styles of Customer Value Co-Creation: A Design Framework

Whilst the basic principles and logic of co-creation are widely understood, little attempt has been made to identify and distinguish the different styles of value co-creation that companies can deploy. In this article, I make an attempt to address this shortcoming by defining eight styles of customer value co-creation along with a few examples of companies practising each.