NurseGrid Blog

The Challenges to Healthcare Innovation: Part 3 of 3

So far in this series, we have explored the variety of hurdles that impede innovation in healthcare, as well as the potential to innovate through healthcare technology and challenges faced on that front. While it is easy to overwhelm one's self when so many challenges face progress in the healthcare industry, this article looks to highlight the existing efforts being made to innovate in healthcare. While our mission is to improve and innovate a very specific component of the industry as a whole, there are many others who also see the challenges in healthcare innovation and seek to overcome them.

Potential is a key element of making a difference in the healthcare industry; opportunities may exist that are inconspicuous to potential problem solvers. With this in mind, it is important for collaboration to remain a core component of invested parties in healthcare; this includes larger and smaller healthcare systems, healthcare technology companies, and the start-ups looking to innovate in the healthcare space that possess the agility to progress alongside technology as a whole. An examination of the various laws of technology demonstrates the fast-paced nature of technology innovation.  This rapidity of innovation makes agility not only a convenience but an imperative.

A great example of an organization looking to bring together the collaborative efforts of smaller silos is the Portland Business Journal. Journalist Elizabeth Hayes has developed an ongoing series called Healthtech, its purpose to “highlight the work going on in the Portland area in the sector we're broadly calling health technology.” Since its creation less than a month ago, Hayes has covered innovations in Portland’s healthcare scene ranging from a startup looking to provide a more secure data storage and retrieval system, to Ziba Design’s collaborative efforts with Children's Cancer Association to create a music cart as a new form of entertainment for sick children.

The more important component of this series Hayes has created, beyond providing a new awareness of these efforts in healthcare, is the power to bring together such effort and become greater than the sum of its parts. The ability to work together with individuals and organizations across all disciplines to address the concerns uniformly empowers all invested parties to work cooperatively rather than competitively and prevents these parties from becoming isolated from one another. As author and media theorist Steven Johnson frames it, innovation happens through a liquid network and the efforts of individuals like Hayes foster such environments.

A survey done in 2012 showed that 71% of nurses use a smartphone for their job; this number can only be expected to have grown in the past two years. Yet, if the hardware is already in the pockets of millions, why has there not been a surge of developers looking to empower nurses with application to improve their efficiency and productivity in the workplace? Many organizations, such as the Royal College of Nursing, do not support the use of mobile technology of nurse staffs, and this is understandable. With constraints surrounding confidentiality and security, organizations have every right to express their concern.

Why has there not been a surge of developers looking to empower nurses with application to improve their efficiency and productivity in the workplace?

There are those, however, who look to leverage this opportunity and improve health behaviors. New Mexico State University College of Health and Social Services has been working with patients to better manage chronic illnesses through mobile technology. Understanding the drastic increase in the adoption of smartphones within the populations at hand, the institute has worked to work from this opportunity and leverage innovation that is readily available. While of course, there is a difference between a patient adopting technology to better self-manage and a nurse using their smartphone in a similar respect, the main point I'd like to make is that organizations and individuals in healthcare must begin making the most of the opportunities that naturally arise from innovations in technology as a whole, rather than inhibit such innovation's ability to thrive when it enters the industry in question.

At this point in 2014, we have all heard someone say, "Let's make sure we put it all in the cloud." Cloud-based technology, despite at times appearing as a pure buzzword, has become an incredible source of innovation, and it is reported that 83% of healthcare organizations are using cloud-based apps. I discussed the importance of business agility, defined by McKinsey & Company as" the ability of an organization to adapt rapidly and cost-efficiently to changes in its environment." Cloud-based technology, in this respect, has demonstrated its potential in healthcare, and many companies are rising to the occasion and providing empowering solutions to the industry as a whole.

PointClickCare is a great example of this, a company providing a platform that takes the recent innovations of cloud-based software and appropriates it for use in the healthcare space. What makes PointClickCare worthy of mention, however, is not its sole ability to take on innovation, in this case, cloud technology, but aggregate innovation that has manifested itself in many different forms. By providing a service that is further augmented with an ease of use from the end-user, an extensive investment in research & development, and an understanding of the iterative nature of innovation, PointClickCare is poised to maintain its position as an innovator in the healthcare space.

These are but a handful of examples of the many players out there turning to innovative technology as a means of changing healthcare as we know it. Whether they are bringing the healthcare community together, developing innovative solutions, or testing the various opportunities that have arisen in the past few years, these individuals and organizations are facing the challenges to healthcare innovation head-on. Rather than allowing technology to act as an impediment to the success and development of the large healthcare industry, decisions and effort should always be put behind empowering individuals and organizations alike with the continuous innovations of our world.

Know an innovator in healthcare that was not mentioned? Share with us others that you think deserve this title in the comments below!