Innovation in health care is vital for several reasons. Not only can it stimulate economic growth through enhanced efficiency, increased productivity, and optimized patient outcomes, but innovation can also improve patient safety, promote transparency, and enable greater access to care.
Such innovation often results from proactive action or forced necessity. Consider the changes in clinical practice because of the pandemic – the health care industry experienced a dramatic shift in operations, from new processes in the ED and inpatient departments to a widespread increase in the use of telehealth both inside and outside the hospital.
Health care cannot afford to stand still and be satisfied with the status quo. There is a continuous need to develop novel solutions for patient care, including improving clinical systems and processes, offering new services to patients, and developing new therapies and effective diagnostics.
Clinical, hospital, and health system leaders can foster innovation in their own ways, avoiding the pitfalls of habits that keep processes stuck in the same place.
How Hospitals and Health Systems Can Foster Innovation
At facility and system levels, hospitals and health systems must focus on building a solid foundation that takes care of basic needs, creating the right environment, and making the right investments.
Start with the Basics
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs tells us that we must take care of the basics to be able to engage in higher-level thinking.
During the pandemic, patient surges and staffing shortages created stressful situations where putting out fires was the order of the day. Optimized scheduling with dynamic staffing and proactive attention to surge plans can guarantee your hospital is fully supported with the people and resources they need to deliver exceptional care every day.
Appropriate coverage creates an environment conducive to innovation, as it allows room to actively think and consider new ideas and approaches that can lead to substantial improvements. Extend the impact of that environment with continuous evaluation of current processes, an attitude of advancement, and the retirement of policies that are no longer relevant.
Cultivate Respect for Learning — Create an Innovative Culture
It’s incumbent upon us to create a culture that values courage and doesn’t fear failure while always keeping patient safety in mind.
Of course, innovation does not come without friction. As the Chinese proverb says, “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls, others build windmills.” We must acknowledge the challenges — limited budgets, increased demand for health care services, rising patient expectations, and mounting pressure on clinicians and front-line workers due to staffing shortages.
However, if a culture of innovation is to take root, everyone, from entry-level staff to executive leaders, needs to buy in and show both courage and curiosity, while testing out new solutions. Not every idea will work, nor will every proposed solution be quick, but that shouldn’t stop us from trying.
Make the Right Investments
Innovation takes investment in resources and assets, including your people. Ensure you are investing in your team, flexing your workforce by putting the right talent in the right places at the right times. Help your workforce rediscover their “why,” supporting boundary-setting and work-life balance, and rewarding innovation through growth, learning, and development opportunities.
Such efforts will pay off with greater individual resilience, improved morale, and more productive staff.
Investing in technology and tools is also imperative. Hospitals and health systems have limited budgets, so leverage yours to get the biggest return on your investment possible. That includes looking for multi-service technology solutions that can help in numerous places instead of just one.
How Clinicians Can Influence Innovation
For innovation to be effective, it must start at the clinical level, with the doctors, nurses, and staff who serve patients directly every day. Their attitude toward embracing change will filter through the entire hospital, so they must have the right mindset.
Take Care of Yourself
The adage, “put on your oxygen mask first before helping others,” is a common self-care mantra, but it’s especially applicable to clinical staff because of the stress you face. You need to put your health care needs before your patients by keeping a positive mental attitude, staying physically fit, and achieving a healthy work-life balance.
Identify Lessons Learned and Apply Them in New Ways
We got creative during the pandemic out of necessity. Not everything worked well, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t leverage those lessons and apply them in this new era of normalcy. That also doesn’t mean unprecedented situations won’t recur, so it’s best to prepare for the future. The pandemic was a proving ground for advancements, and we must continue that work.
Have a Growth Mindset
Your mindset affects what you will achieve. A growth mindset means developing new skills and adjusting to new operating procedures. A fixed mindset is resistant to change. Adopt a growth mindset to transform your team and organizational culture. Evaluate processes regularly and spend your energy thinking about what you could change versus dwelling on an outcome.
Don’t be afraid to try new things. Also, encourage your team to be innovators, thinking of new and exciting ideas. While you may not be making TikTok videos of new operational practices, clinicians can be influencers for their teams and the industry as a whole. Be willing to go out on a limb and show courage.
Innovation for Growth and Improvement
Health care industry growth opportunities and challenges will always lie ahead. That has never been truer than now in this tentative, post-pandemic era. Therefore, we must make innovation a priority if we are to deliver first-in-class health care and advance care across the entire continuum.
Realizing long-term growth benefits means creating a culture where innovation can flourish, and staff and patients feel they are change agents in the process.
SCP Health can help. Our innovative health care solutions span the entire continuum of care, from emergency services to post-acute care, urgent care, advanced care at home and beyond. We drive cost-effective, high-quality results using advanced technology and innovative care models.