Hospital innovation

My mother is in hospital this week having a hip revision (and doing fine). Going into the place where she is having it reminded me that I'd been reading more stuff about hospital design. For example I'd looked at the Kaiser Permanente's Garfield Healthcare Innovation Center (established in June 2006) website

It describes itself as:

A living laboratory where ideas are tested and solutions are developed in a hands-on, mocked-up clinical environment. Many aspects of delivering healthcare can be innovated and examined at the Center using real-world scenarios and activities, such as simulations, technology testing, prototyping, product evaluations, and training.

Although several of their pages are locked for KP personnel only it's easy enough to get an overview of the types of activities the Center is engaged in and why this form of experiential approach to innovation and collaboration is an exciting and productive one.

I've mentioned before the short opinionator piece "A breath of fresh air for healthcare" by Allison Arieff. She makes the point that "Their [KP's] efforts to improve the patient experience touch all facets, from designing greener, healthier buildings to increasing the amount of time nurses spend at bedside."

The UK NHS established a similar innovation center in July 2005, The Institute for Improvement and Innovation. It "supports the NHS to transform healthcare for patients and the public by rapidly developing and spreading new ways of working, new technology and world class leadership." Its Practice Partner Network has been established to provide "an opportunity for organisations to work closely with the NHS Institute, has been embraced by senior leaders across the NHS. Interest in joining the PPN has been exceptional and we now have over 50 member organisations, who will be working with the NHS Institute over the next 12 months"

It works in six areas of healthcare: Building Capability, Innovation, Quality and Value, Share and Network, QIPP, and Safer Care. (QIPP is about NHS products and services).

Comparing the two sites – established within a year of each other – gives another perspective on organization design and culture. What impression are visitors to each getting about each enterprise? The KP one is simpler language, less cluttered pages, and seemingly with a different intent. It appears to be going for developing and piloting small innovations while the NHS one, with denser language and more crowded pages, seems to be going for a huge effort to make the entire system more innovative. (Going back to the 'bright spots' or 'positive deviance' I have written about – I wonder which of the two approaches will be more successful).

What I didn't come across in anything about the approaches was learning from other countries ways of doing things – there's no evidence of a 'global mindset' on either site, despite the much written about 'health (or medical) tourism' industry. (See, for example, the Medical Tourism Association website. Maybe learning from other countries goes on behind the scenes but it would be nice to see some reference to learning and collaboration from a broader perspective.

Heartening is the drive to innovate and improve the products, services, and physical design of the facilities. Just as an observer to my mother's three hip operations – more or less one every 12 years. I have seen and experienced advances on all counts.

Beyond the innovation going on around patient care and ways of delivering hospital services that the two innovation centers are involved in, it was interesting to see the article First Do No Harm in Fast Company on the physical design of hospitals. It opens saying "Hospitals have a brutal effect on the earth" and follows by presenting a prototype of the hospital of the future. It looks like a workable building from a sustainability point of view and would meet the LEED for Healthcare standards being developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. However, there are no costings attached to the prototype and it doesn't address what it would actually be like to either work there or be a patient there.

But who knows – if my mother has a fourth revision in another 12 years maybe she'll be in such a building receiving the innovative care being piloted now.

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