By Dr. Andrew Maxwell.
I have frequently written about the challenges organizations face when they wish to become more innovative. Often this is because they either focus on the development rather than the deployment of a new technology, or because their current processes discourage rather than enhance the innovation culture within the organization by reinforcing what has worked in the past.
Yesterday I was fortunate to meet a wonderful technology entrepreneur who has developed a novel medical device that will improve patient care, increase surgeon efficacy and reduce costs, yet I realized that without understanding the barriers to innovation, the commercial success of the innovation is in doubt. I raised a number of questions about his technological innovation that I think illustrate ten of the critical challenges faces when attempting to innovate in the health care arena. In this blog I share these questions, which both illustrate the importance of knowing which questions to ask, and highlight specific challenges to illustrate why health care innovation is so challenging. Identifying the right questions to ask, and finding appropriate answers at an early stage of the process are critical in both avoiding wasted effort, and implementing an innovation process.
To illustrate the innovation challenges, I will first introduce the product PelvAssist™. You can get more details on the Avenir Medical web site (www.avenirmedical.com). PelvAssist™ integrates with current operative techniques to display the precise positioning of hip implants when undertaking hip replacement surgery, allowing allows surgeons to move beyond visual alignment while providing a low-cost and portable alternative to today’s computer assisted surgery. As 1 in 40 hip replacements are not properly aligned the first time, this product reduces the need for corrective surgery and gives the patient peace of mind. This also has a benefit to funders, as the cost of repeat surgeries is reduced.
Ten critical questions:
- 1. What is the main advantage of the innovation and who benefits?
- 2. How does the use of this innovation address the identified problem, and how will you show that it will work?
- 3. Who will be interested in the use of this innovation to the point that they will want this innovation, and how will you find evidence to support this?
(In healthcare this is one of the biggest challenges, there are three (and sometimes more) stakeholders, who can have competing interests: the patient, the medical professional and the funding organization).
- 4. Who will be the decision-maker in deciding to use this innovation, and are they the same person as the person who will benefit?
- 5. Is the person or organization that has to pay for the use of the innovation the same as the decision-maker or the user, and where will the budget to cover the cost come from.
- 6. How will the person who has to pay for the innovation justify the expense, especially if it does not directly reduce operating costs? (Frequently the benefits accrue to several stakeholders, but only one has to pay for it)
- 7. Are there changes involved in the operating or administration procedures to enable this innovation to be deployed? If so do they significantly reduce the benefits of the innovation?
- 8. Is there a learning curve associated with the adoption of the innovation? How will this impact the implementation decision? If training is required, who will provide it and how much will it cost?
- 9. Is the level of technological or financial risk associated with this innovation acceptable, and how can it be mitigated?
10. How will you encourage specific early adopters, and how will use these experiences to encourage subsequent adoption?
While in the case of PelvAssist™ many of these questions have already been raised and answered, some still remain. However in terms of this article, the questions raise important points about innovation in the health care arena that can be applied to many innovations. They also highlight the fundamental challenge in the healthcare industry of meeting the needs of the patient, the healthcare professional and the funding organization. Unfortunately I have all too often seen important medical devices fail to achieve their potential because the entrepreneur has struggled to identify how the purchase decision is made, and who pays for it. A better understanding of these issues are essential if we are to use innovation to simultaneously improve the quality of health care and reduce the cost of providing it.
Dr. Andrew L Maxwell, Chief Innovation Officer, Canadian Innovation Centre © 2012