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Reconsidering Innovation in a Future of “Always”

February 7, 2012
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A fresh look at how to innovate may bear fruit on the path to “always.”

Many healthcare organizations are no longer talking about generally good or even great performance, they are working towards the concrete notion of getting things right all the time.  Moving the challenge of “always” from a concept to a daily objective in safety, quality, and patient satisfaction is a focal point for many, and may soon affect value-based incentive payments.  Ways to accelerate the ability to develop new ideas and smooth methods for putting those ideas in play are needed, and it seems clear innovation has an important role.  A fresh look at how to innovate may bear fruit on the path to “always.”

Many pertinent questions arise as I learn more about innovating and reconsider how innovation fits in operations; product development; and service delivery.  Do we think of innovation as something that happens or something we make?  Is it an outcome or a process or both?  Do we consider innovation a side-benefit of otherwise pointed efforts or as something we manufacture and apply?  Do we say “That project you did happens to have some great innovations.”  Or do we say, “We seem to be doing this as well as we can under current paradigms.  What we need here is a major innovation to enable opportunity, so let’s create one.”  Do we consider innovation as a distinct item amongst all of our responsibilities, and is it part of our lexicon?  Do we try to create an innovative environment?  Do we know how we want innovation to exist in our values and our culture, so we can know what the answers to these questions should be?

Healthcare organizations stand between the accomplishments that define their tradition and future challenges pushing performance boundaries amidst changing payment and service models.  Many questions must be developed and answered by each institution to find the best way for them to get things right every time.  As this process moves forward, innovation may have a valuable role as a fulcrum our teams can use to do the “heavy lifting” necessary to meet the challenge of “always.”