“The Problem in Healthcare is not the
Lack of Innovation.
The Problem is the
Lack of Innovation Adoption.”
— Christian Milaster
Innovation, especially in healthcare, seems to be the “name of the game” these days. Everybody in healthcare is talking about innovation — digital health, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, and so on. It’s long been the buzzword, the darling of the venture capital community and what CEOs have to focus on in their update to shareholders or the board.
And many amazing, useful solutions have been and are being developed that can make a real difference in improving people’s health, including early recognition of disease onset, more accurate diagnoses, personalized treatment, revolutionary therapies, etc.
The challenge is that the traditional healthcare delivery system is very ill-prepared to efficiently and effectively adopt this innovation and integrate it into their care delivery systems.
Over a series of articles, I’ll be tackling this fascinating, rich and utterly important topic with plenty of practical guidance along the way.
But these articles are not going to be focusing on the creation of innovative solutions; plenty of articles and books have been written about that.
No, this series is focusing on a largely overlooked aspect of innovation:
Think about it: Without adoption, innovation is useless.
The coolest gadget, the coolest scientific method has no value, if no one is using it.
What good would a hammer do, if no one was using it? Just grab the nearest rock and pound that nail in. It worked before, right? Why learn how to use that weird t-shaped thing?
I’m not focused on large academic medical centers with large research budgets. Or wealthy health systems with their own innovation ivory tower (though those have their challenges, too).
My mind is focused on (and my heart goes out to) the health centers, clinics, critical access hospitals, behavioral health agencies and local health systems. Those organizations, who in the 3rd year of the Covid-19 health crisis are suffering emotionally and financially due to governmental sequestration, a shrinking (and burned out) workforce, quiet quitting, eroding business models, etc.
Many of these organizations are in constant firefighting mode, rewarding the heroics of individuals “saving the day”, with little bandwidth and energy to strategize, to plan, or even to take a breath — let alone to focus their attention on innovation.
As Einstein quipped: “The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different outcome.” But once an organization is stuck in this hamster wheel of insanity, it takes a courageous leader to step outside and redirect the energy — even if initially chaos ensues.
“The future is already here. It is just not evenly distributed.” was an astute observation by writer William Gibson. In this case it means that the (innovative) solutions to the problems have already been developed. One must just find the right one and adopt it.
A few weeks back I wrote that wicked problems require wicked solutions. There is no magic bullet, no one solution that will solve the problems at once. It will take a series of innovations (and improvements) to tackle the challenges. Which is why it is paramount for healthcare to learn how to accelerate the adoption of innovation.
The current situation in this VUCA world is caused by many factors — the Covid-19 health crisis, the growing cost of care, the clinician shortage, the great resignation, the digitalization of healthcare, the accelerated pace of change, and fast-paced evolution of payment models, just to name a few. With so many “root causes”, many innovative solutions are needed to stabilize the situation and bring it to at least the resemblance of control.
Which brings me to the core concept that any organization must master first: the quick, rapid and almost effortless adoption of innovation.