3 Steps to Develop an Innovation Program for Health Care

laptop with health care documents
Carroll Elger|
July 16, 2019

In our last blog, we listed and discussed four various ways to address the digital disruption that’s shaking up the health care industry, and predicted how well health care providers would succeed with each method. Ultimately, we identified developing a dedicated internal innovation program was the most effective way to address disruption in health care. Given that we help clients develop innovation programs like this, it isn’t exactly a surprise that we believe that it’s the most effective method, but we recommended it to our clients because we want them to innovate in a way that will actually change their business and improve their bottom line.

How to build an effective innovation program

Now that we’ve established our preferred approach to addressing disruption, we want to teach you how to build an innovation program that will work in the health care industry. To recap, a dedicated innovation program is a business activity that is fully supported my leaders in the org, and is planned not as a one-time event but as a recurring business activity. The processes in the program should be repeatable with improvements, and they need to be developed in a way that prioritizes innovative, even entrepreneurial thinking. Here’s a three-step process that can be used to develop a program like this: 

Step 1: Establish strategy and goals for the program

Without goals for the program to work towards and a central strategy to guide it in that direction, an innovation program is likely to struggle producing disruption-breaking innovation. When planning a program one must first consider the types of disruption that their org specifically faces, for health care, the major disruptors can be found here. The disruptors that are relevant to a health care org will likely depend on their current overall business strategy, so the goals and strategy for an innovation program must be aligned with the overall strategy. If a health care provider is dedicated to providing the best patient experience in their market, they should have an innovation strategy and goal that addresses disruptors that are attempting to integrate a new digital patient experience. 

Employees are the actual ideators and drivers of internal innovation, and the way we communicate strategy and goals to them is through challenge statements. Challenge statements are written specifically for a group of employees, typically segmented by department, and present the business challenge posed by disruption in a way that’s unique to their work. These help employees think of ideas that are relevant and specific to the goals of the program.

Step 2: Promote the program effectively

Naturally, employees can only be empowered to share ideas and innovate if they’re frequently engaging with the program. To achieve this, we recommend frequent promotion of the program to employees, as well as other stakeholders in the program. The first place considered should be wherever employees are the most, typically the company’s email client or messaging app like Slack. A simple plan consisting of reminders before and during the program will keep the program in participants mind’s when needed. It’s also important to have digital communication for the leaders and decision makers in the org that will be reviewing ideas and choosing the ones to take action on.

While it may seem counterintuitive to a modern innovation program, promotion should also take place offline as well, whether that be including the program in meetings or putting up physical promotional materials around the workspace.

Step 3: Completing the innovation pipeline

As mentioned in the last step, it’s important that attention is not only paid to planning for employees submitting ideas but for the decision makers reviewing, scoring, and implementing ideas as well. Leaders must do these activities to keep the “innovation pipeline” intact and ensure that they’re actually producing innovations that will help overcome disruption.

Feedback for employees on their ideas is also a critical piece. Feedback that both praises good ideas and encourages employees to look for improvements will validate employees’ empowerment. Giving feedback is necessary for a program that will be repeated in the future, repetition again being key goal of an effective innovation program.

Finally, feedback should also be asked of employees and decision makers on the program itself, so that the program can be improved and altered for the next iteration.

Changing the company culture

When we look to beat disruption in an effective, repeatable manner, what we’re really getting at is building what we call a “Culture of Innovation”. This culture is one where activities like giving feedback, encouraging entrepreneurial thinking, promoting innovation and more don’t need to be explicit tasks; instead they are activities that come naturally to employees that have been empowered and have seen the fruits of their innovation labor. This culture of innovation is one that sets a health care org up to not just be a company practicing innovation, but a company that is the innovative leader in their market. This ensures that even as disruption continues to progress and expand with the rate of technological advancement, a health care provider can grow with it and maintain or improve market position.

If you’re interested in learning how Ideawake builds this type of environment for our health care clients and more, click this link to book a free demo of our software and get an explanation of our approach.

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