Innovation: Not "On Demand"

Innovation (ĭn’ə-vāshən) n.

  1. The successful adoption of a new idea, method, or device
  2. The process of making improvements by introducing something new
  3. Change that creates a new dimension of performance

Having just returned from HIMSS, I was cleaning out all my brochureware to see if there was anything I needed to keep. One of the slogans I saw was “Innovation will happen”. Innovation has been well studied and well described with significant advances in both theory and practice. I have had the opportunity to read the Innovators Dilemma and am currently reading the Innovators Solution (to resume right after I finish Redefining Healthcare) and have become familiar with the subject matter.

I disagree that innovation will just “happen”. I don’t believe you can throw a bunch of smart people in a room, throw a challenge and money at them, and expect that they will just “innovate” (if you don’t believe me, please review the Soarian product). Innovation is magic. Innovation needs to be fostered, nurtured, and allowed to flourish. Innovation requires chemistry, not physics. Innovation can be guided, but not demanded. Properly mentored, innovation doesn’t result in evolutionary changes, but leads to revolutionary changes.

Innovation has long been a part of healthcare, and has led to some of the most impressive and profound discoveries of the 20th century. This innovation has primarily focused on treatment based discoveries including new devices, pharmaceuticals, surgical techniques, and related intervention based treatments. However, the actual delivery of care has long lagged behind other industries by as much as 5-10 years. In fact, it takes 17 years on average to have a proven clinical guideline become incorporated into the practice of medicine. This is unacceptable, and the complications resulting from this sluggish adoption is one of the new driving forces behind the value-based reform movement well underway in our country.

Focusing on patient value as a driver of health care related innovation is well described in Redfining Healthcare. An excerpt of the concept is included below:

“Value based competition on results will not only lead to more patients being care for by excellent providers, but also inspire and drive innovation in medical care. Innovation, broadly defined as new methods, new facilities, new organizational structures, new processes and new forms of collaboration across providers, is fundamental to value improvement in health care. Innovation is the only way the US health care system can address the needs of an aging population without rationing services or experience huge costs increases. Innovation will reduce the costs of medical care far faster than the current efforts to control medical practice.”

Creating a healthcare environment focused on, incented by, and recognized for delivering value will foster the innovation required to transform the US healthcare system. As this movement becomes more broadly accepted by the various healthcare players, the pace of innovation in the delivery of healthcare will increase. We will see new ways to organize, new methods of providing care, and new ways information is managed to optimize value to patients.

Operating from this framework, I do believe we can enter a new dimension of healthcare performance.

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