Thinking in a new way is the most difficult innovation to achieve. We often apply new technologies to old processes and models, thus achieving a modest improvement.
In my previous post I showed how, for example, in the development of new electronic medical records, approaches and schemes that date back more than twenty years are repeated.
Past experiences and habit are the main enemies of innovation, which in words everyone wants but, because of the effort involved in change, is often opposed by many.
In my professional life I have experienced this phenomenon many times and I have learned to recognize the attitudes and speeches of those who are against innovation, even if they may declare themselves open to change. Here is a brief list of topics and attitudes that are a wake-up call for innovators.
- Technologies and innovation must not change the organization and the way they work. It is a very deep-rooted attitude in health care, both in defence of one’s own professional environment, skills, role and relative power, and for the objective complexity of bringing about changes in health care models. While in other sectors innovation is leading to real revolutions in business models, in the workforce and in the market, the way people are cared today is almost the same as it was twenty to thirty years ago. Before proposing or working on innovative projects, it is important to ascertain the attitude to change the context in which we will be operating.
- Technology and innovation are not for everyone or are not able to solve every problem. It is the “hair in the egg” strategy that is often used to counteract any project that wants to make a change. Either everything or nothing is the logic, so to speak, behind this behaviour that is often contagious in meetings and ends up drawing attention to marginal aspects. The “digital divide” is a typical example. If you want to counteract this, be prepared to provide data on the benefits of the project and the impact it can have on the entire case study. The Pareto principle or the 80 20 law can be two valid points of discussion.
- Innovation costs money, there are no economic resources. It is certainly true, but it is also true that maintaining the status quo often costs even more. Reasoning for costs without considering the problem as a whole is a short-sighted and, often, uneconomic approach. Any innovation project must be questioned and accompanied by a cost-benefit analysis, avoiding the approach that sees innovation in a thaumaturgical way and, as such, to be carried out independently.
- Innovation is dangerous, introduces new risks and subverts the order of things. Automation, expert systems, artificial intelligence are three examples of technologies that can be seen in opposition to the professional role of doctors, nurses and administrative employees. Despite the fact that in many sectors, the greater precision and reliability of intelligent machines and systems is now widely acclaimed, in healthcare the human factor is sacred and any attempt to diminish its role or, worse, replace it, is destined to find very strong resistance, even on the part of patients. It is therefore essential to “position” innovation correctly, reassure stakeholders and proceed with great sensitivity.
- Innovation dehumanises health and distances doctors from patients. Machines have no empathy, people need not only care but, even before, attention and reassurance. They are true concepts and therefore shareable even if the reality is also made up of non-empathic doctors, lonely people, and problems to be solved. Every innovation project must consider the human and psychological aspect to be addressed; we must avoid overestimating the benefits it can give and underestimate the consequences that the changes will produce.
Innovating is difficult, so it is necessary to be aware of the context in which we will operate, to avoid taking false steps.