Eric Schaefer is Driving Innovation in Healthcare


Katherine Sorensen

Content Strategist at Coplex

Eric Schaefer has spent his entire career at the intersections of strategy and innovation, and the healthcare ecosystem.

Eric is driven by identifying and developing innovative models of care to achieve better health outcomes, create value, and foster growth. From leading strategy and development with North Memorial Health to owning venture development with United Health—Eric brings a breadth of knowledge and leadership to the corporate innovation space.

Now he’s bringing his experience executing on big ideas and innovative strategies in healthcare to Coplex as the VP of Healthcare Innovation & Strategy. In this role, Eric develops partnerships with corporations and healthcare organizations to identify startup ideas while working with the Coplex team to validate and pilot these concepts.

I caught up with Eric to talk about his experiences working strategically with healthcare companies looking to drive corporate innovation within their organization, and what excites him about joining the Coplex Startup Studio team.

Katherine Sorensen (KS): Tell me about why you like to help companies big and small execute on their big ideas?

Eric Schaefer (ES): The roles I’ve enjoyed have been the ones where I get to work on big issues because I love to problem-solve. I am passionate about digging deep into the problem at hand and figuring out the best strategy to execute. Specifically, with healthcare, it’s very complex. It’s one of the largest parts of the economy with unlimited problems to solve, and it contains really fertile ground for innovation.

KS: Speaking of Innovation, it has turned into a buzzword in the tech and business world. What does it mean to be truly innovative, and why is it so important for corporations to consider?

ES: Innovation is more than just good ideas and a bit of creativity. The real magic happens when you take those ideas and effectively apply them to an already existing problem. For example, when you take existing data and use it in a new way, you can really start to break ground. Innovation is progressive; a new way of thinking and operating. It’s something that corporations struggle to do in a timely manner, but it’s critical for growth.

KS: You have a background in economics and marketing. What drew you to healthcare, specifically?

ES: I actually got into healthcare by chance, all from the help of a job fair at college. Once I got involved with the industry, I became really interested in what was going on and how many different verticals exist within it. It’s a huge industry with so much room for growth. I’m really excited to be able to facilitate and witness the changes this industry endures.

KS: So what can large corporations learn from startups and vice versa?

ES: That’s an interesting question. I think that large companies can learn that there are ways to work quicker and more agile to create better value for their customers. Optimization is the top thing they need to do, and I believe they can look to startups on how to accomplish that. On the other hand, startups can learn that there are good reasons to be careful. If those companies are so large and so successful, it’s for a reason; and that reason is largely due to the fact that they carefully place their bets. The intersection is when we figure out how to create a bridge to connect their knowledge and strengths in a way that creates successful and sustainable businesses. I truly believe that is where Coplex comes in.

KS: What about your role at Coplex really excites you?

ES: This is my best opportunity yet to be able to identify, develop, and deploy innovative business models in healthcare. Coplex leverages the assets that don’t currently exist in the market of large organizations. My role is to be the enabler and push the needle forward for these companies using the skills and expertise that Coplex fosters.

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