Healthcare should focus less on innovation, more on imitation

Hospitals should focus less on innovation and more on imitating proven approaches that actually work and adapt them for industry use, according to a Harvard Business Review article.

Authors Anna M. Roth, CEO of Contra Costa Medical Center, and Thomas H. Lee, M.D., chief medical officer at Press Ganey Associates, propose a new International Institute for Imitation, which would provide easily accessible information for healthcare personnel who want to improve their organizations with the help of proven methods. Roth and Lee want to start an annual prize for the highest impact implementation of an idea created by someone else, and encourage embracing imitation for the good of bettering healthcare organizations across the world.

The authors cite Contra Costa Regional Medical Center's imitation of Thedacare health system's "visibility wall" to promote transparency. The wall displays improvement initiatives and performance measurements, and is meant to share goals, marking progress and encouraging transparency, according to the article. Another example is Piedmont Health System in Georgia, which implemented fully transparent patient comments available to the public after watching the University of Utah Health System succeed at the same program, but eliminating unnecessary parts of the process, according to the article.

The International Institute would also encourage appropriating ideas from other industries, much like hospitals adopting Toyota's production system improve quality and increase efficiency, according to the article. For example, some hospitals are taking a page out of Cisco Systems' book and partnering with others who have expertise in certain areas to improve non-clinic issues that affect patients' health like access to food, housing and employment, authors write.

Although the authors acknowledge innovation and imitation are closely connected, they said it's better to look at the health systems that outperform others and imitate them, which is a faster way of getting better.

However, healthcare must seek innovative ways to produce better outcomes, but not at the expense of high costs, said Sandra Fenwick, president and chief executive officer of Boston Children's Hospital, FierceHealthcare previously reported. Innovation is what put the hospital on the map and what ensures patients and their families continue to choose the organization for care, she said.

To learn more:
- read the article