Fitting Innovation into Health Care Culture


Innovation means active experimentation to find better ways to produce valued outcomes. Health care innovation at the laboratory level is well understood, supported and very productive. There is also a proud history of health care innovation at macro-levels from the creation of church-based hospitals for the indigent throughout Europe in the Middle Ages to the wide variety of health insurance systems developed across the world in the 20th century. More recently centralized payers, like insurance companies and governments, are experimenting with innovations that exert their monopsony power to reduce prices and use variation in pharmaceuticals.

Innovation is notably lacking however in health care delivery. This is odd given all our brave talk about improving efficiency, effectiveness, quality and sustainability. A significant barrier is the lack of consensus and trust among health sector participants: "one subgroup's innovation is another subgroup's loss of control [Kanter*]".

To breakdown these barriers and build inter-professional trust, participants will have to routinely share information formerly kept in inaccessible paper files. Robust, dependable, cross-platform electronic health data systems are central to the success of this information exchange. Full access records must be available to all providers and support personnel at any time if we expect them to effectively coordinate care.
One more thought: how about we include the patient and families or caregivers as part of the team and make the full information base available to them on demand? Talk about innovative!

*Kanter, R.M. Why Innovation Is So Hard In Health Care: And How To Do It Anyway. Harvard Business Review on line. Posted February 22, 2011. Available on-line:

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