Monday, May 17, 2010

How-To’s of Health Care Innovation

In the opinion of many experts, the only way we are going to grow out of our present health care malaise is through innovation – doing things better, simpler, cheaper, and more humanely.

How to innovate in health care is a huge industry today. Many big American corporation claim to be innovative in the realm of health care. On national TV, GE constantly touts its efforts at medical innovation, through its electronic medical records and its new imaging machines. Tom Peters, the management guru, says American corproations can’t shrink their way to greatness, but they can thrive in chaos through innovation. Each time I write a blog on innovation, innovation companies – Innovation Management, Inc, Innovation Software, Inc, and Open Innovation Software, Inc. – place ads on my blog.

Peter Drucker, the late management guru, said every company should make innovation a centerpiece of their corporate strategy and make it systematic, organized, and purposeful. Kaiser has a center for innovation and has created the Innovation Learning Network, where big health care organizations across the land are mobilizing to bring us better health care. Small practices are innovating too, as they bail out of traditional practice models to form concierge, cash-only, home-care only, cosmetic-care only, Internet-based care , or to exploit other care niches that bring down costs, improve care, and the public will embrace.

Medical Innovations may come in big or small packages, but they must come in packages the public finds attractive, useful, and worth paying for. A medical innovation is useful only if the public or the payers accept it.

In a 2008 essay, Scott Berkun wrote,

An innovation can be big or small. Brand-new or just a bit different, it doesn't matter. An innovation can be clearly complex or seemingly simple. Innovations are often thought of in terms of technical achievement, but can also be a design. The type, industry and style of innovation are irrelevant; an innovation's impact determines its qualification.

The presence of a genius can help with innovation – it may speed up the end result by having a person who can see and make the future happen. However, innovation is more than the work of any one "Einstein." Innovation involves the taking of the work of an individual (or team) of inventors and taking it to a broader audience.

The future of many businesses depends upon their ability to innovate. Competition is fierce. Knowledge spreads quickly. The ability of a company to not only keep up with its current business practices, but to exceed its own – and its competition's – expectations are critical to survival.

But how? The how to’s, as I see them, are,

1) Encourage people to express wild and crazy ideas. A hospital in Pennsylvania does this routinely by having periodic “wild and crazy” sessions for its staff. . The only rule is “no snickering.”

2) Ask people on the front lines, nurses, other paraprofessional receptionists, and aides- what they think. They are more likely to know what people need and what will work. If you’re a doctor, ask them, “How can I do this better?”

3) Create and fund skunk groups, those outside your practice and bureaucracies, to try new things.

4) Appoint a chief innovative officer for your practice, anybody, for your practice, and reward them in some way.

5) Take multiple actions at the edge of your practice to see what attracts patients.

6) Ask “Why not?” Why not try something new? Even if it fails, you’ve learned something.

7) If what you’re doing isn’t working,
do something else.

If you want to do something, ‘
do something.

If you want to try something,
try something.

If you do not know that something,
ask yourself or others if you’re missing something.

There’s always a better way of doing something,
Doing nothing is not as good as doing something.

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