How To Encourage Innovation

There is an ongoing discussion on how to increase and encourage innovation. This is especially prevalent in the risk-averse Canadian healthcare space. In order for innovation to prosper in a marketplace, these conditions must prevail:

Understanding what innovation is

Innovation doesn't have to be a brand new technology or process, it could be an enhancement of something that already exists. By looking at the definition in a different way, it makes the activity of encouraging innovation easier to digest. Let's think about how we can make improvements. Some will be brand new and game-changing and others will be small improvements on what currently exists. Both are innovations.

Having a system that incents innovation

This requireds governments and industry organizations to create incentives for companies that innovate. These incentives could take the form of grants, funding, lower barriers to market access, tax credits or relief, or many other options. The key is that companies are incented to improve upon what is currently in the marketplace. This can also extend to those organizations that have the ability to discourage innovation-media, lobby groups, funders. These organizations often publicly punish organizations who are trying to innovate but may not have been successful, thus discouraging others from trying.

Having an appetite for risk

Organizations that are in the marketplace need to have an appetite for the risks required when chasing innovation. Not every innovation is going to be a success, so companies need to recognize this when embarking on an innovation. Listen to the marketplace, listen to customers and fulfill a current or future need to increase chances of developing successful innovations.

Developing a roadmap for success

Whenever you try to go from one place to another, you need a map to show you how to get there. Innovation is no different. What are the processes that need to be in place? What stakeholders need to support the initiative? What are the steps required to effectively develop, commercialize and implement new innovation? Without a common roadmap, organizations will falter at various stages by developing their own way of operating.

Understanding and taking the first step

One of the biggest roadblocks to new innovation is that organizations don't know where or how to start. To talk about innovation as a concept is a daunting task, so we need to break it up into manageable chunks. Understanding the first step in this initiative will go a long way to creating some forward momentum. Don't think of the whole journey, just think of one thing your organization can do to start the journey, then let the laws of physics take over (something in motion tends to stay in motion).

Thinking Big

Thinking big means:

– Getting out of your comfort zone, conquering self-esteem issues and recognizing that you can't grow by doing more of the same, but only by changing your world view
– Acting instead of thinking about acting and being more assertive in going after what you want. Taking a single step in the right direction will help overcome fear and procrastination
– Being a thought leader by thinking bigger and more boldly, using big words (breakthrough, dramatic, extraordinary) and setting the pace for others
– Realizing that no idea is too big
– Collaborating and innovating with clients to develop game-changing ideas, not just solving problems
– Not waiting for an excuse to reward yourself and doing what you want to do, the way you want to do it
– Surrounding yourself with the best and the brightest people and eliminating people and things that don't align with your personal and professional development

Are you approaching your business by thinking bigger?

Global healthcare opportunity #5: Provide a clear vision of the future

The one thing that is often lacking in healthcare is a global vision. What do we want the future of healthcare to look like? I was at a conference the other day and someone said that the goal of Canadian healthcare should be to ensure that our healthcare system was at least as good, if not better, for our children. I thought this was a pretty good start as an underlying principle, but is it a good enough vision? Maybe.

Like many organizations, the healthcare system needs a clear vision of its future state. What is the model? What are the underlying principles? What does the future state look like? Only then can we determine the best way to get there. If you don't know your final destination, then how can you plan the route to get there? This requires leadership and an ability to take into account the needs of many different stakeholder groups-patients, doctors, nurses, healthcare administrators, pharmacists, etc. Right now, many heathcare systems are lacking the appropriate leadership and need to start with the basics, deciding on their final destination.

Global healthcare opportunity #4: Take Pressure off of Hospitals

Right now, many hospital systems put an inordinate amount of pressure on hospitals. Patients are staying for long periods of time because they have nowhere else to go, doctors are required to perform minor procedures that nurses are trained to perform and many governments don't want to admit that there are other options for those that can afford it. In Canada, approximately 7,500 people are living in hospitals (living is defined as having been there longer than 100 days) because they have nowhere else to go. That costs the system approximately $7.5m every day!!! Does that sound like an efficient system? We need a system where these people have a place to go where they get better care that is more cost effective. The hospital is the most expensive place they can be.

We need to develop local clinics and providers who can take much of this pressure off of hospitals. Hospitals should be a place where people go for emergencies and specific kinds of specialty care, not a catchall where patients stay because they have nowhere else to go. Develop local communities and homecare facilities to support those that need a place to go and be cared for, provide for better home care and give people options when it is time for them to be discharged from hospitals.

Like most businesses, much is lost in the transition from one system process to another. However, in most businesses this leads to lost money and profits. In healthcare, this leads to lost money and lost patients. There are lives at stake here so let's make a better effort to fix the problem.

Golbal healthcare opportunity #3: Integrate the patient experience

Right now, patients are in the middle of a system where not much is integrated. Their records need to be shared by hospitals, specialists, local clinics, care centres and many other healthcare providers. But currently, patients are pretty much responsible for their own records, or least knowing about their health. Every time you see a specialist or a new doctor, you must go through the same discussion about past medical history and treatments. What happens if I am in a critical situation and am unable to tell anyone my previous history? Technology is advanced enough to have our medical records follow us wherever we go, so we need to create a system where incentives are given to make the patient experience seamless and more integrated. Start locally, then move to regionally and then internationally. Imagine a world where a universal health card stores all of my health records and information and it can be accessed virtually. The technology is there (think bank debit cards), so why not healthcare records? Because people are trying to tackle the system all at once instead of breaking into manageable chunks.