Health CareOrganizing for innovation

Three Sciences

There are three sciences which all have the same overall objective, advancing health care: 1) Basic, 2) Clinical & Translational, and 3) Implementation. Is it a good thing to maintain this split since each has a significantly different focus? Or would it be better if these three sciences came together since they strive for the same goal?

Three sciences — each with its own focus

Three sciencesEach of these three sciences has its own focus.

  • Basic Science advances and creates new knowledge.
  • Clinical and Translational Science translates the research findings and brings them to the bedside by creating new treatments, diagnostics, drugs and devices.
  • Implementation Science studies the methods needed to promote the integration of research findings and evidence into healthcare policy and practice.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is that there are too few people involved in academic medicine. Splitting this workforce into three groups would make the pool of available talent and experience seem even smaller.

Three sciences — commonalities

What all three approaches have in common is that they are rooted in science, and, as Kurt Lewin said, “Nothing is as practical as a good theory.” However, the academic approach taken by all three tend to follow a technology-push, instead of a market-pull approach.

Each of the three sciences is also extremely important. Great advances in health care can and still need to be made, and there is a pipeline of research findings that struggle to find their way into applications.

Three sciences — separate disciplines

At the same time, it is a pity that each is developing as its own discipline, creating silos in thinking that will not help with the overarching goal of “advancing healthcare.”

While combining the three sciences is probably a very bad idea, as each has its own focus, methodologies and approaches for the right reasons, how can health care leverage the knowledge held by each?

Leveraging these three sciences

Probably the only way to leverage these three sciences is by making every single practitioner in health care responsible for advancing the field. Not just those few in academic disciplines who focus on that goal 100% of the time.

No. Have everyone spend, for example, at least 10% of their time considering how to make their work—the care for patients and the health of patients—better. And given what we know from the innovation literature, this 10% should pay for itself, if not produce an ever higher return on investment.

Taking time

From experience I know that innovating on Friday afternoon is not productive. The most productive writers in academia work at least 15 minutes every day on their papers. The same probably holds for innovation. Investing 15 minutes at a minimum each day will be sufficient to keep projects in the back of your mind and move them along. Alternatively, blocks of time can be used to make leaps forward. To make them count, these blocks need to be planned well in advance. Just think: 10% of your time would give you five weeks a year to run experiments to see what works better!

Imagine if every clinician contributed just a little bit. Then each of the sciences would have an unbelievably productive workforce to help advance health care. This involvement would mean there would be no shortage of clinical trial sites, which is currently a significant bottleneck in clinical and translational science; there would also be a huge demand to implement medical innovations that have proven to work elsewhere.

Making it real

What needs to happen to make this real? Probably education, as very few healthcare providers currently know how to get involved, let alone that they are able to innovate effectively and efficiently.

A great first step would be to make innovation part of the medical training curriculum. For example, the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences recently started a track in Clinical Practice Innovation and Entrepreneurship. This is a great start for the next generation. What about those who are currently practicing? We at Organizing4Innovation are here to help you to make innovation and improvement an integral part of your daily routine.

Interested in learning more on how to integrate innovation in your daily healthcare practice? Please contact us at info”at”organizing4innovation”dot”com or visit our website for more information:



More on implementation science

More on clinical and translational science

More on the George Washington University Medical School program