High Performance Health Care: Generating Good Ideas

Health care is reinventing itself as the playing field begins to stabilize. Although there still seems to be occasional political statements about “repeal and replace,” the practical fact is that much of the Affordable Care Act is now being implemented. Even if some aspects of the insurance expansions are changed (e.g. mandate to purchase health insurance), the system reform components appear to be “baked in.”

This new system stability has energized creative health care organizations into stretching their strategic plans and trying to inject a spirit of creativity and innovation into their organizations.  For example, a number of progressive health care organizations have set up “Design and Innovation” departments. The Mayo Clinic has one of the leading examples in its Center for Innovation.

But what really is innovation? Does it come as flash during the drive to work or is it the result of a complex set of interactions of talented individuals?

Professor Tom Ressler, one of my colleagues at St. Thomas, is a student of the innovation process and teaches his students how to use Mind Maps to connect unlikely ideas into innovative concepts. Tom has directed us to a wonderful overview of this process, provided by Steve Johnson. Steve is the author of Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation and gave a summary of his work at a TED conference. This 17-minute video is well worth your time.

Most health care organizations are increasing their emphasis on teamwork – particularly in primary care. These teams can also be fertile soil for new ideas and innovations that can significantly improve the delivery of care. Where do you see innovation in health care?