“Innovation” is the new buzzword; it’s being used to describe products and services in almost every radio and television commercial.  The best definition of the word innovation that I’ve found is “…the transformation of an idea into something useful”.   (1)   “The health care delivery system in the US is facing cost and quality pressures that will require fundamental changes to remain viable”.  (2) “Patients, payers, and politicians are demanding it [innovation], and history shows that organizations that fail to deliver it will suffer.  (3). 

My question is:  With an opportunity to change health care systems and delivery mechanisms, what evidence is there that anticipated health care reform strategies are innovative?

Creativity and invention are often confused with innovation.  Creativity and invention are about conceiving new ideas, innovation is about implementing them. 

There are two popular models of innovation, the Open Innovation Model and the Disruptive Innovation Model.  The Open Innovation process involves the use of external collaborators.  Proctor &Gamble began to use the open innovation process in 2000 when they “anticipated that more than 50% of their new product ideas would come from outside of the company, a radical shift for the healthcare giant”…. “As a result, P&G reported that R&D productivity increased by more than 60 percent”… [and many of the]…”100 new P&G products have been significantly influenced by ideas provided by outsiders”. (4) 

The Disruptive Innovation Model creates a new (and unexpected) market by applying a different set of values.  A good example of a disruptor is Ford’s lower-priced Model T.  Some marginal or new segment will value a disruptor; in Henry Ford’s case that “new segment” was the general public.  Disruptive innovation, initially, does not appeal to traditional customer segments; disruptors may “appear as cheaper, simpler, even with inferior quality if compared to existing products” (5), sort of how the Model T looked next to the Stutz Bearcat.

Healthcare has adapted disciplines in innovation, and with good results.  Examples are home health care, a burgeoning industry; telemedicine for the management of resolving CHF; retail clinics and surgical procedures (laparoscopic hernia repair). Maybe the 21st century health care reform goals of access, cost control and quality should be goals of 21st century healthcare innovation. 

Maybe we need to examine what has worked in corporate America and apply those successful models to healthcare by developing new sets of values and organizational principles.  We can use leadership in fostering new ideas, and external collaboration and disruptive innovation to address healthcare needs in marginal segments to “develop new experiences for patients, public and community.” (6) 


  1.  Book:  So what is Innovation/Approaching a definition of Innovation, aussieinnovation.com/wiki/Book.  Chapter 01:  So What is Innovation?
  2. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6963/9/57.
  3. Why Innovation Is Important by Paul E. Plsek, MS, DirectedCreativity.  AHRQ Healthcare Innovations Exchange.
  4. Building an Innovative Practice from the Outside-In.  RealInnovation.com (http://www.realinnovation.com/content/c070312a.asp?action).
  5. Disruptive Innovation.  http://innovationzen.com/blog/2006/10/04/disruptive-innovation.
  6. Why Innovation Is Important by Paul E. Plsek, MS, DirectedCreativity.  AHRQ Healthcare Innovations Exchange.

About the Author

Ardena L. Flippin, MD/MBA is a professional speaker who focuses on the healthcare crisis facing corporations today.

Dr. Flippin, a Chicago native, is a retired board certified emergency medicine physician.

Topics #disruptive innovation #healthcare #innovation #open innovation #proctor and gamble