Medical innovation centers are becoming increasingly popular, as a recent article in The Washington Post attests. Every healthcare center or system should have one, because it signals to the public that the institution cares about patient care and works hard to improve it. But what does it take to ensure that medical innovation centers actually contribute to improved patient care?
Innovation Center ≠ Innovation
The creation of a medical innovation center raises awareness for innovation within an institution. But on its own it does not contribute to the innovativeness of a medical center since it is not the innovation center itself, but healthcare providers who drive innovation. An innovation center is only an enabler. A place where people with an interest in innovation can convene, get information, be educated and supported, and network.
A medical innovation center can help drive healthcare innovation within an institution by taking on an advocacy role for innovators:
- Ensuring that innovation and career incentives are aligned
- Providing seed funding
- Acting as a broker for inventors who want to sell their innovations to outside parties
Innovation Center ≠ Profits
What should be the primary objective of a medical innovation center?
If its goal is to generate profits for the institution to supplement or complement its overall revenue stream, it may be set up for failure. Industry experience has shown that only 1 out of 10 innovations is truly successful, and that not all successful innovations generate a profit. So it is not surprising that in industry most R&D units are cost centers, not profit centers. Similarly, in universities most technology transfer offices cost rather than make money for their institutions.
The better metric for a medical innovation center’s performance is its contribution to improved patient care. As most hospitals already have systems in place to monitor patient experience and their own caretaking performance, the effect of the innovation center on this metric can be easily assessed.
Innovation Center = Learning
If the goal of a medical innovation center is to improve patient care, how will it be achieved?
Hospital management is aware of the areas that are most in need of improvement, thanks to instruments like employee surveys and customer feedback. But don’t guess on how to improve these areas or hire consultants to give advice—use your innovation center to make a lasting difference:
- Ask the employees in the unit to suggest improvements and innovations.
- Empower these employees to act upon their ideas, and then reward them. They may require some education and coaching on how to proceed, but you will be surprised how many have the capability to become an innovation champion when given the opportunity.
- Since many ideas don’t work, run an experiment that demonstrates a solution’s effectiveness before implementing it formally. Knowing what does not work is as important as finding out what does.
- By making ongoing learning the overarching objective, your medical innovation center will be set up for success. As Thomas A. Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
When medical innovation centers are dynamic learning centers, they become powerful engines for growth and generate many opportunities for improving patient care. And the increased reputation for quality will likely help retain valuable employees and attract additional revenue for the hospital. Who doesn’t want all of that? These are some of the many reasons why a medical innovation center is a good investment.
Interested in learning more about how to ensure your medical innovation center’s success? Visit our website at www.organizing4innovation.com/health-industry or contact us via e-mail at info “at” organizing4innovation “dot” com.