Thursday, December 11, 2008

Clinical innovations - Innovations as Game Changers

Innovation is a team sport.

Drew Boyd, Blogger on Innovation, quoted in “For Innovators, There is Brainpower in Numbers,“ New York Times, December 5, 2008

As I write, I am riding from Connecticut to Washington, D.C. on an overnight Amtrak train to attend a December 10 Health and Human Services innovation conference staged by the Department of Health and Human Services

From the invitation letter and a subsequent phone call, I gathered about 50 of us “innovators” were meeting to suggest ways to save the U.S. health system, now hurdling towards bankruptcy in five years or so.

As a word “innovation” has become so abstract, it borders on the meaningless. It is apple pie and motherhood, much ado about something that will save us from good intentions and unintended consequences. Innovation needs to be more concrete. For the concrete, I turn to sports metaphors, for in sport there are always winners and losers, a final score.

• Take statins. Statins are winners. They are largely responsible for lowering heart attack and stroke rates in Americans.

• Take coronary bypass, stents, and hip and knee replacements You can score how many lives have been saved, how may cripples have been restored to full and functional lives, and how much costs have soared.

• Take the current re-emphasis on primary care, closer doctor-patient-nurse relationships, and new innovative systems for delivering care.

These are game changers, and they stem from large and small and constant changes and innovation. Innovation is a process, its group genius; it’s multiple minds meeting to reach a tipping point; it’s generating of ideas by a group – tinkering, experimenting, and building large systems by “chunking” – introducing small changes that work.

In the end, there may even be about some great paradigm shift – a new way of thinking that changes current dynamics, improves care, and produces a financially sustainable system.

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