We can describe healthcare innovation as a novel idea, product, service or care pathway with clear benefits compared to what the market can offer currently. Successful innovations often possess two essential qualities: usable and desirable. Successful companies ask their customers what they want and innovate based on their findings. Such organisations must develop and provide a culture of innovation for their employees.
Over the last three years, the healthcare sector experienced dramatic shifts that will likely persist. New business models, unexpected collaborations, and accelerated timelines have pushed organisations to rethink their operations. Adapting to these and other shifts will require many healthcare organisations to transform their operations and mindsets.
The pandemic illuminated how healthcare providers can service patients remotely through virtual care, remote patient monitoring, and virtual collaboration for professionals in the pharmaceutical and med-tech industries. This model supports greater flexibility and has enabled organisations to draw from a more diverse talent pool. At the same time, leaders are reevaluating old workplace norms and introducing new measures to increase employee flexibility. Furthermore, several digital health companies have embraced virtual healthcare delivery by streamlining their customer support and introducing virtual assistants and new technologies like augmented reality.
According to research by McKinsey, prioritising innovation during crises can help unlock growth in the recovery, provided leaders approach it with commitment and establish critical capabilities and processes. Incremental innovation will likely not be enough to stay ahead of competitors, and thus healthcare organisations must make "bold bets" and seize opportunities. We saw the benefits of nontraditional partnerships and collaborations in quickly finding creative solutions to urgent problems. The health and auto industries teamed up to build ventilators, while pharmaceutical sector competitors collaborated to hasten the development of a Covid-19 vaccine. These new avenues could become extensions of the healthcare ecosystem and the way of the future.
We don't need to look externally for innovative ideas. Staff at all levels of the organisation can develop brilliant ideas for innovation, such as improving systems for a better patient experience. It is essential to create a culture where innovation can flourish, and all stakeholders feel empowered to contribute to the innovation process and help make change happen. But an innovation culture is not the only component for success.
Several other areas present barriers to innovation in healthcare, and we need to tackle these if we are to make innovation happen:
To revolutionise the sector, we must carefully nurture innovation by addressing regulation, intellectual property, funding, scalability and procurement issues. An authentic culture of innovation will help us improve and provide quality healthcare for all South Africans.