Viewpoint: 3 ways to test whether new healthcare solutions are truly innovative

Innovation has become one of the most widely used buzzwords in healthcare in recent years, and rightly so, since innovation is necessary to develop new solutions that can improve outcomes, cut costs and serve more patients than ever before.

That said, according to a recent op-ed in STAT, it is important to identify which of these efforts are actually innovative. The op-ed's authors, who previously worked together to lead artificial intelligence projects at the Seattle-based University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, define "true innovation" in healthcare as something that eases tension between stakeholders.

"While many industries have a one-on-one relationship between the person and the good, healthcare has many stakeholders at the point of purchasing, all of whom must receive benefit without compromise. That's what true health care innovation does," they explained.

The authors suggested three strategies for distinguishing between true healthcare innovation and an invention or quality improvement masquerading as innovation:

1. Include patients in the innovation process: A surefire way to develop solutions that ease tensions between all stakeholders is to work with those stakeholders to do so — beginning with the patients, since the idea of patient-centered care is typically at the center of all healthcare innovation.

2. Question how an innovation eases tension: "If a good or service is new but doesn't ease tension, then it is really an invention. If a good or service improves an existing process but doesn't ease tension, then it's a quality improvement," the op-ed's authors wrote. Making that distinction will shed light on how those goods and services can be raised to the level of true innovation.

3. Seek innovation beyond digital health: Innovation does not necessarily translate into new technology; though something as simple as physician house calls may not seem "radical," they ease tension for patients, physicians and payers alike and are therefore a truer form of innovation than many of the overhyped digital health apps currently in development.

More articles on innovation:
AMA doles out $400K in grants to 15 medical institutions
NYU Langone Health is replacing the hub-and-spokes model of innovation with a 'neural network' of interdepartmental collaboration
Viewpoint: Data analytics spurs innovation by turning existing tools on their heads

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