This article was written by Lisa Miller.
Every hospital needs a strategic plan for innovation.
In a disruptive healthcare environment, the hospitals that are willing to be creative, take risks, step outside of their comfort zone and serve their patients ultimately deliver enhanced patient outcomes.
In my experience, the benefits of innovation cannot be overstated. Although healthcare is highly regulated, there is always room for new ideas to enhance patient care and reduce your costs.
What is Innovation in Healthcare?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health innovation:
‘improves the efficiency, effectiveness, quality, sustainability, safety, and/or affordability of healthcare. This definition includes ‘new or improved’ health policies, practices, systems, products and technologies, services, and delivery methods that result in improved healthcare.’
Here are some examples that illustrate how you might introduce innovation into your hospital:
Innovation in Your CommunityInnovation in healthcare must match the needs of your community & each community is unique. Click To Tweet
Your hospital’s innovation must match the needs of your community and each community is unique. What might prove to be effective in a city environment cannot necessarily be replicated successfully in a rural area.
The following examples provide ideas for innovation:
Patient advocates: A New York hospital seeking to improve the experience of their patients’ families provided patient advocates to guide visitors through the hospital. In these circumstances, patient advocates may fulfill a number of functions, for example:
- Explain to the families of patients what will happen next and how they can help, including information related to tests, diagnoses and treatments.
- Offer advice on how to care for patients when they return home.
- Assist with practical issues regarding medical equipment, visits by medical professionals after patient discharge, and prescription drugs.
A practical approach to the parking lot: Visiting large hospitals can be daunting experiences for patients. Faced with the challenges of an extensive parking lot, one Georgia based client of VIE Healthcare hired a member of staff to address this issue. The unique role of this employee was to collect patients and visitors from the parking lot in a golf cart and transport them to their appropriate clinic. In this case, the anxiety of trying to locate a specific department was eliminated and the patient experience significantly enhanced.
A new approach to food: Introducing more nutritious or appropriate food is another growing area of innovation in healthcare. Food outlets such as Subway have previously been introduced into hospitals to provide healthier food options. Alternatively, hospitals may bring in specific local foods appropriate to their community.
Adding new services to meet specific patient needs demonstrates how highly the patient experience ranks on your hospital’s list of priorities.
At VIE Healthcare Consulting, we offer healthcare ethnography services to help your hospital understand the unique needs of your patients and create an environment that allows for innovation.
Telehealth and Telemedicine
From online patient portals and virtual visits to remote monitoring, wearable devices and personal health apps, telehealth is changing today’s healthcare landscape.
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) defines telehealth as:
“…the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical healthcare, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration. ‘’
The benefits of telehealth include:
For patients: Telehealth eliminates travel expenses and waiting times, extends access to specialists consultants, and can reduce medical costs.
For hospitals: By innovating in the area of telehealth or telemedicine, revenue can be increased, fewer appointments are missed or canceled and patient follow-up is improved, together with health outcomes.
While reimbursement issues relating to telehealth still exist, your organization can begin to introduce initiatives, such as:
- Making an app your patients’ first mode of communication.
- Offering remote telehealth monitoring or telehealth rehabilitation (telerehab). Telerehab can be extremely beneficial for patients living in rural or remote areas. It also enables hospitals to respond quickly to minor health issues and emergency medical conditions. Its biggest advantage is that it delivers solutions and therapy to people who might find it difficult to visit a traditional clinic.
Widespread adoption of telehealth is relatively limited but predicted to increase.
As technology is evolving so rapidly, training employees to appropriately use technologies can become an obstacle for some hospitals. VIE Healthcare can help in this key area.
Innovation can enhance every aspect of your health system, from room size, to parking to food and to telehealth.
My question to you is, how can your hospital introduce innovation to improve the service offered to your patients and their families and enhance the patient experience?