Healthcare innovation lessons from around the world

The U.S. health system could learn from programs that have been successful overseas.

The U.S. healthcare system can learn plenty from successes in other countries, according to a new study. 

The Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London and the Global Health Innovation Center at Duke University examined five case studies from around the world that offer "frugal innovations" that the U.S. could learn from or replicate, according to research published in Health Affairs. In some cases, the American healthcare system has already begun to adopt or adapt the programs. 

The five case studies included in the research are: 

  • MedicalHome (Mexico), a primary care program that incorporates telemedicine to reach certain populations. This is a national program that has been adapted in the United States.
  • Narayana Health (India), which targets tertiary care users through lean principles.
  • BasicNeeds (Kenya), which seeks to increase access to mental health by empowering communities. A pilot replicates this stateside.
  • Family Health Strategy (Brazil), which aims to improve access to primary care by empowering community health workers.
  • [email protected] (Singapore), a telehealth-based program that connects providers with seniors.

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The researchers studied both the operational and financial models for all five programs, and though they're vastly different, four common features emerged. Each program: 

  • Changed settings and providers
  • Included elements to facilitate and improve communication between clinicians and patients
  • Targeted health behaviors that can increase the burden on the health system
  • Focused on improving efficiency and processes

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Keys for success include getting financial support in the earliest stages of the program, obtaining buy-in from providers and staff from the beginning, and pausing on a regular basis to address user and patient concerns. 

Commitment from senior leaders and staff at all levels from the get-go, in particular, is "as important as the change itself," the study found. 

"The potential for successful uptake of each of these innovations in the United States is predicated on addressing potential regulatory, scope-of-practice, funding, governance, training, and delivery issues," the researchers said.