Over the past 10 years, I led and advised more than 100 small and large-scale innovative healthcare projects that focused on improving quality, decreasing cost and enhancing provider experience and efficiency. I want to share practical tips for implementing successful healthcare solutions.
But first, let’s get clear on what exactly healthcare innovation is. I find that the definition of innovation most applicable to healthcare comes from Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble1: “Innovation is any project that is new to you and has uncertain outcomes.”
To rephrase, innovation is doing something you have never done before that may result in failure. Pause for a moment and reflect on how that makes you feel. Do you feel uncomfortable, anxious or maybe a little fearful? This is how others may feel when you introduce a new process, product or service. The success of innovation is tied to the ability to skillfully manage change and uncertainty. It also requires a different definition of failure. Innovation is an iterative learning process that cannot be solely measured by achieved results. Its success is also defined by the lessons learned and shared along the way.
Innovation is different from quality improvement, where you make changes to an existing product, process or service and expect to see improvements. With quality improvement projects, the magnitude of change and outcome uncertainty is less significant.
There is a common misconception that innovation = ideas. An idea is just the first step. Successful innovation requires a thoughtful and disciplined approach to its implementation. In the words of Govindarajan and Trimble1: “Innovation = ideas + execution.”
Below are 6 tips that will improve your chances of implementing successful innovative solutions at your organization.
#1. Start with a Clear Design.
Your design should include a detailed outline of your solution and expected outcomes. If you are implementing a new process, map it out step by step, and clearly define who is accountable for completing each step. If you are implementing a new technology solution, be crystal clear regarding WHO, WHEN and HOW would use it. Narrow down expected outcomes to a few that are directly impacted by your solution and can be easily measured.
#2. Test on a Small Scale.
I strongly recommend testing your solution on a small scale to see if it works and to make necessary adjustments before rolling it out organization-wide. Increase your odds of success by piloting your solution with the most engaged and capable hospital unit or a group of providers.
#3. Manage Early Adopters and Active Opposition.
Do not expect that your solution will be universally embraced. To increase acceptance, you must identify and manage early adopters and active opposition. Praise and promote early adopters, regularly seek and incorporate their feedback, and recruit them as peer educators and communicators. Explore the active opposition’s point of view and motivations. They may have valid concerns that could improve your solution, or they may be driven by a personal agenda that could put your success at risk. The latter would require a thoughtful mitigation strategy.
#4. Do Not Relent.
As your implementation moves forward, it is easy to relax if your solution is showing early positive results, or to get discouraged if initial results are below your expectations. My advice is not to let up or give up – continue to evaluate impact and refine your solution to get back on track if needed.
No project ever failed from overcommunication, but the opposite is true. Communicate often using all available channels – in-person meetings, intranet, emails and printed materials. In the beginning, you need to make sure that as many people as possible embrace WHY changes are necessary and understand HOW you plan to accomplish them. As implementation progresses, continuously share results and lessons learned to keep the momentum.
#6. Openly Share Results and Lessons Learned.
Whether your innovative solution achieves the expected outcomes or not, you will learn valuable lessons along the way. Openly share both positive and negative results and lessons learned with as many people as possible to foster knowledge exchange that will augment organizational innovation capabilities and inspire more successful innovative projects.
Successful innovative healthcare solutions require a disciplined execution. By incorporating these tips, you will ensure a higher likelihood of success.
1 Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble: “The Other Side of Innovation: Solving the Execution Challenge”.
Want to discuss designing and implementing a new process, product or service at your organization? Contact me if you have questions or want information about my services.