The 7 Most Valuable Innovation Tactics in the Health Care Industry

While these tactics vary in value and usage, health providers use them all for the same purpose: to avoid disruption.                                                

Carter Liebscher|
October 4, 2019

After reading about a number of organizations’ make-or-break innovation efforts, you might be wondering what innovative steps your organization should take or avoid.

There are myriad tactics organizations across industries use to stay agile, some of the more buzzy examples being hackathons, corporate accelerators, and open innovation. Not all tactics are valued equally, though: One highly valued tactic in one industry may be less popular in another. No matter which industry you’re in or how mature your innovation program is, the core goal of avoiding disruption and becoming a disruptor remains.

This week, we’ll look at one industry where disruption is changing the face of all operations and processes: health care. Here are the seven most valuable innovation tactics providers are utilizing in order to remain agile and face disruption head on.

Crowdsourcing Ideas

Employees want to be heard and feel valued. Even if an issue exists outside their described role, any employee in any department likely has some idea of a solution that could only have come from them and their responsibilities and experiences. 

It’s a universal feeling for employees, but it’s especially pertinent in such a result-oriented and consumer-centric space as health care. It’s no surprise, then, that crowdsourcing is one of the industry’s most valued innovation tactics.

Crowdsourcing is driving force behind the recent influx of mobile health apps, which give patients a platform to input and track their personal health data and giving providers ample data to analyze.

One of the most prominent mobile health apps is PatientsLikeMe, which connects people with chronic conditions and encourages them to share their experiences. It partly functions as an emotional support system, but it’s also a symptom diary of sorts. Since its founding in 2006, more than 600,000 global members contribute to the platform, providing more than 43 million disease data points for health care professionals. 

On the downside, crowdsourcing health care data solely by patients criticized for its bias and lack of clinical oversight. Even if there is valuable information collected through apps like PatientsLikeMe, the results aren’t usable in a proper, bureaucratic way.

Nonetheless, crowdsourcing in health care has benefits beyond a research capacity. Employees themselves should be encouraged to share their own ideas regarding operations and processes, especially those front-line employees interacting with patients on a daily basis. 

Innovation Challenges

This might be an obvious tactic, but health care providers rate it on par with crowdsourcing in terms of value, according to Innovation Leader’s 2018 Report. 

Innovation challenges are prompts inviting employees to submit ideas and solutions to problems or areas of interest in their organization. They may be open across all departments, or they may be centralized around a select few. The “challenge” part of this tactic refers to the time allotted for submissions —ideas are only accepted within a set period of time.

Not only do the time parameters serve as motivation for participants, but so too do the intrinsic and/or extrinsic rewards that often go to the winning idea. 

In 2019, the American Hospital Association challenged hospitals to develop a sustainable way of improving social detriments to community members’ health. In first place came NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, whose submission allowed providers to assess social detriments in early childhood virtually. The reward was funding to bring the hospital’s idea to life.

The largest issue surrounding innovation challenges is collecting and assessing ideas. However, many organizations often use idea management software to store, keep track, and interact with challenge submissions. In fact, over 85% of the largest American companies use digital innovation management systems. 

Network of Champions

Champions are those internal and external employees tasked with—or simply personally invested in—driving a culture of innovation within an organization. It could be a team high-ranking business heads helping their internal innovation leaders complete their tasks, or it could be a collection employees coming in to finish the task themselves.

One example of the latter is Family Health International’s (FHI) Network of Champions Project, which helped promote awareness and use of reproductive technology in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The project worked with health providers, policy-makers, and other advocacy groups in order to maximize their influence. 

While networks of advocacy champions carry a tremendous amount of educational value, they may run into bottlenecks if key stakeholders withhold buy-in. However, a well-designed and engaging champion program certainly has the power to sway.

Open Innovation

While the former three innovation tactics are generally utilized within an organization, open innovation refers to innovation programs assisted by external, third-party organizations. That includes university programs, startups, and independent inventors. 

With a number of private tech companies introducing disruptive biotechnology like the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine learning, it’s imperative that providers recognize their influence and use them to their advantage. UCB, a Belgian pharmaceutical company, has used open innovation to expand their collection of patient-centered products and knowledge. One of UCB’s key partners is BlueHealth, a research collective specializing in health risks caused by the environment and climate. 

Unfortunately, as the UCB case shows, open innovation tends to be practiced by mature companies with sophisticated innovation and R&D programs—smaller companies tend to focus on tactics with more immediate results. Still, forging partnerships with other agile, like-minded organizations, whether they’re entangled financially or not, can have lasting effects on innovative success.

Accelerators/Incubators

Corporate accelerators and incubators are short-term partnerships between one organization and another innovation-focused group intended to grow the former’s innovation potential. Accelerators often create a hectic but productive environment, inspiring employees on both ends to work hard, network, and meet goal deadlines.

According to the 2016 Global Accelerator Report, accelerator programs have helped raise over $206.740 million in startup investments. Health care startups have been included in investment rounds since then, reaching this decade’s peak with the average partnership deal growing by $6 million

There’s a lot of potential for your health care organization by participating in an incubator program. Of course, some of the worries others have include mismatched networks and company goals. However, with adequate research, accelerators can open doors for both organizations, perhaps leading to an acquisition later down the road.

Innovation Training

For younger companies with less defined innovation programs (or simply without one), innovation training is a necessity.

The average employee at such an organization might not have innovation on their mind. But, just as how innovation challenges can inspire and collect great ideas from disparate departments, innovation training might spark a long-term investment in the process.

Many schools offer health care training classes, programs, and bootcamps, where organization leaders can learn innovation from experts and actionate that knowledge.

Training can be a costly expense, especially when done through top-rated programs. Our innovation experts can help you unlock your organization’s innovative potential while improving your bottom line

Hackathons

While corporate hackathons and other related events were rated the least valuable by health care providers in Innovation Leader’s 2018 Report, their function is similar to innovation challenges and accelerators. However, they’re even shorter in length than innovation challenges, often only lasting one to two days. 

Stanford University’s Health Hackathon is a two-day event bringing together those in different disciplines, including engineering, design, and business, to ideate ways to make health care more affordable. 

Considering the short duration of hackathons and the effort going into setting it up, they’re often an annual event intended to drum up internal support and external interest. They also may be difficult to sign up for and require travel and a decent amount of preparation.

Just like in innovation challenges, winning hackathon teams receive positive press and oftentimes funding. If there’s a hackathon or similar event in your area, it’s best to jump to signing up.

Which of These Tactics Should Your Health Care Organization Use?

You might recognize some of these tactics being used in your organization, or you might be taking note of those that haven’t yet been used. The best way to determine which tactics are best for you is to assess your innovation readiness.

Ideawake will help your health care organization plan and strategize an innovation program that’s best for you. Take a look at our implementation process and unlock your innovative potential.  

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