WHAT is innovation? Innovation is a new use, or the application of something for a completely new end, or purpose.
It may involve a novel idea, approach or method, or a new product or service. Technology may play a part. Innovation is not just about difference or change, however, it is a more effective way of doing something.
It implies i) a difference, with ii) improvement, that is iii) important. It is about doing things better, and this ‘better’ brings about a significant change to a set of circumstances.
Innovation meets a requirement, or satisfies a particular need – even if this need was not previously well recognised. Indeed, this is often what makes something so innovative.
It sees something previously taken for granted, and makes it problematic. Innovation is a very human process which involves the imagination.
By looking awry at a situation, or set of circumstances, we reframe how we make sense of the otherwise familiar.
The secret of innovation is to blend the present and familiar with the creative and new. And this is what great innovations have done for centuries.
So where does health innovation start?
Well, it could be anywhere from a system failure to a clearly defined health goal. Or it might start from something as simple as a patient’s experience in the hospital.
Patient flow, of course, is an important component of this. But patient flow is not patient experience. Taken together the two can provide some very powerful insights into healthcare delivery.
What if we start by comprehensively analysing, qualitatively and quantitatively, how a patient experiences their journey through the hospital system, and specifically look to some of the ‘gaps’ in this experience.
What are patients feeling at various points? Are they anxious, frustrated or content? Who is accompanying them? Or are they all alone? Where are they, precisely, during this time?
If we ‘map’ patient experience onto patient flow it will likely give rise to a whole range of new contact points and opportunities for patient engagement.
Who knows? A patient’s frustration at waiting on a hospital bed in the corridor may be just the catalyst for a truly significant health innovation.