From new technology to the shift to value-based reimbursement — to say nothing of the needs imposed by the ongoing public health emergency (PHE) — the logistics of running a healthcare facility are constantly evolving. And because managing this complexity means innovating new processes and best practices, here’s a look at some fundamental methods for achieving innovation in healthcare.
5 Key Steps for Achieving Innovation in Healthcare
#1: Enable collaboration with more open communication
“Whether it’s the evolution of team-based and integrated care or the advancement of patient-centered population health management, the most beneficial advances in healthcare delivery have come from a recognition that collaboration works,” writes Mike Miliard at HealthcareITNews. So, when looking to drive innovation in healthcare, “it’s valuable to ‘promote interdisciplinary innovation teams.’”
Millard is quoting Adrian Zai, MD, director of research at Partners eCare, who was speaking on the topic of promoting innovation in healthcare for the HIMSS Big Data and Healthcare Analytics Forum. In that speech, Zai singles out “artificial divides that hinder innovation,” such as “walls between research and clinical operations” as key obstacles to achieving that important goal.
Other experts agree that, to succeed, innovation requires buy-in and collaboration from all departments in the larger organization. “Innovation encompasses how people act, think, and engage within and across organizations,” writes Keith Loria at Managed Healthcare Executive. “It involves out-of-the-box thinking, taking risks, learning from failures, and making investments in ideas, people, and culture.”
#2: Create a culture of innovation
In other words, innovation in healthcare requires moving past the compartmentalization that can still dominate many organizations, toward greater collaboration. And that means working to infuse a spirit of innovation within a company’s entire culture.
As we’ve discussed here in the past, achieving a more positive corporate culture is an important objective for leaders for other reasons, too. Among other benefits, focusing on the quality of their culture can help organizations retain their most valuable employees at a time when shortages are threatening operational integrity — especially for skilled nursing and long-term care facilities.
In addition, integrating a spirit of collaboration and teamwork into an organization’s culture provides a reliable foundation for innovation on a company-wide basis. The first step should be making sure that innovation is understood as a concept and as a goal not only in the worker handbook/code of conduct and orientation sessions, but also in ongoing meetings, communications and employee reviews.
Implementing this step means regularly seeking out contributions and feedback from workers whose opinions may be otherwise unknown. This can provide rare insight into processes with low visibility, which could lead to operational innovations like optimized workflows and reduced waste. Operational innovations can be achieved, and an organization’s positive culture reinforced, all at the same time.
#3: Think long-term about technology
“Increasingly, innovation in health services involves the development, introduction and mainstreaming of new technologies, which traditionally have had a high failure rate in the health care sector,” according to a policy brief on innovation from the World Health Organization.
That’s no surprise. At this point, most healthcare organizations have integrated technology related to telehealth and mHealth to modernize their operations and expand their patient care offerings. Yet too often, the programs that make use of these tools and technology is piecemeal, implemented to meet immediate needs rather than integrated in a way that provides the best long-term results and ROI.
Getting around this roadblock means thinking beyond the use of technology for its own sake, or to meet one specific objective. No tool should be used without a long-term strategy, or a clear understanding of how each program will be funded not just this year, but into the foreseeable future. Interoperability and compatibility need to be considered as carefully as the individual price point of the technology.
#4: Seize the power of data and analytics
The use of data and analytics for continuous improvement is corollary to technology, but should also be its own area of focus. Thanks to technology, the ability to efficiently and accurately track and analyze key data is widely available for organizations of all types. But using that data to its full potential means seeing beyond the technology to perceive key trends and insights that directly affect operations.
Today, a variety of analytical tools are available to help find these trends. Yet taking the initiative to manage them isn’t always easy. As Zai notes, it “takes leadership to show where are the fertile fields” for innovation. Gaps “always transparent across the organization,” he adds, further underlining the importance of communication and collaboration to the entire framework of healthcare innovation.
#5: Enlist the help of a third-party partner
Much of what’s required to be truly innovative is difficult to achieve without some third-party guidance. Especially for more modest-sized organizations, the resources to properly implement all of the steps above simply may not exist. And enterprise-level companies or networks that do have the resources may lack the structure to put them all to work toward the larger goal of innovation in healthcare.
By finding vendors with the expertise to implement larger solutions, and to work with an organization to make sure that their technology is being applied in the best strategic way for each individual organization. This helps providers get more value and ROI from their investment with that partner, as well as providing more tools to help achieve organization-wide innovation in healthcare.
Partnering with a clinical workforce solutions provider can also deliver efficiencies in staffing, as well as greater access to specialized workers to help carry out the day-to-day task of continuous improvement. From access to contingency staff to streamlined administrative processes, third-party vendors can help provide the resources needed to put strategies for innovation into effect.
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