Developing and Sustaining Innovation in Healthcare Organisations


Development of any organisation is a dynamic process. From this perspective, embracing change in the operation of an organisation is the foundation for remaining dynamic and potentially improving performance. Here, it is essential to mention that change is a broad concept. In this way, it may include alterations in the workplace environment, the introduction of new services, the implementation of the newest technologies, etc. Still, regardless of the nature of the desired change, as well as the area of organisation’s operation, senior management should pay special attention to critical factors that ensure successful adoption of innovation and its sustainability. Therefore, the central objective of the paper is to review the main factors that determine chances for sustaining innovation in a health care organisation.

Organisational Factors

Regardless of some specificities of the health care sector, organisations operating in it are no different from companies working in other areas when it comes to fostering change. Therefore, in order to sustain innovation in a health care facility, it is essential to make a focus on organisational objectives. It means that it is critical to make sure that the type of the implemented innovation corresponds with facility’s mission and vision (Antwi & Kale 2014). For instance, if the main objective is to improve patient satisfaction, the implementation of newer laboratory equipment and electronic health records are appropriate. However, if the goal is to remain financially healthy, similar steps are irrational. One more related factor is financial condition of the organisation. It stands for the availability of financial resources necessary for funding the implementation of change at a maximum scale (Enzmann 2015). For instance, the introduction of the newest technologies is inseparable from training personnel in case of lacking skills needed for coping with the innovation (Moahi, Bwalya & Sebina 2017).

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Another organisational factor to consider is the specificities of the workplace. In this case, it is essential to pay attention to the connection between leadership and management. From this perspective, even though managers develop innovation programs and design frameworks for implementing them, these are leaders that drive the change (Motacki & Burke 2017; Stevens 2013). It is especially critical in case of conflicts between managers and leaders that may results in opposing change, as team members commonly follow leaders. At the same time, in this case, it is paramount to focus on leadership styles (Boswell & Cannon 2017). For instance, transformational leadership style is synonymous with constant development and sustained innovation due to its connection with continuous personal growth (Choi et al. 2016). In addition, transformational leadership relates to higher levels of employee involvement that potentially entails increased support of the innovation program (Goosy & Green 2015). The same is true for management styles. For example, lean management is beneficial for sustaining innovation because of the focus on constant improvement and development (Abuhejleh, Dilaimi & Ellahham 2016).

Finally, it is imperative to address such organisational factors as the environment of operation, culture in the workplace, understanding of the innovation process, and relations between team members (Moahi, Bwalya & Sebina 2017). The first one determines the necessity of implementing innovation. For instance, introducing the newest technology for laboratory tests is more relevant compared to managing health records of patients. Culture in the workplace identifies the readiness to embrace change. It is inseparable from leadership style as well as organisational objectives. For example, organisations with underdeveloped transformation-focused culture are unlikely to accept change. Therefore, the probability of sustaining innovation in such organisations is low. Finally, relations between team members are the factor that determines whether people are able to cooperate for achieving a particular goal, especially when a significant effort is necessary.

Individual Factors

Except for organisational factors, it is advisable to consider those related to individual specificities when it comes to sustaining change. In this case, it is critical to investigate the level of employees’ knowledge and skills needed for supporting the change. For instance, when incorporating the newest technologies (e.g., electronic health records, telecare, and telehealth), it is critical to guarantee that personnel members are familiar with the introduced software (Hamric et al. 2014). Otherwise, innovation will not sustain. All in all, this factor stands for employees’ competence and professionalism as well as the readiness to make effort to obtain new knowledge and develop new skills. In addition to the ability to cope with the innovation, it is extremely important to be aware of the cultural differences in the perception of change. It means that representatives of some cultures (for instance, Western) are more likely to embrace change, while people with the Eastern background are more conservative so that they are likely to oppose change.

Approach to Change

Still, it is critical to remember that an approach to change is even more important than the factors mentioned above. One of the most advisable approaches to perceiving change is systems thinking. In general, it stands for the ability to view an organisation as the whole and estimate the potential impact of innovation on all elements of the system (Peters 2014). From this perspective, the innovation will sustain only in the case of a beneficial impact on all of all departments of a health care facility. More than that, the innovation is relevant only if it is positive for all constituents of the larger system (Atun 2012).

In addition, it is critical to assure that everyone under the potential influence of the desired change is aware of objectives and expected outcomes of the innovation. In most cases, innovations do not sustain because they are not communicated in a proper manner. It means that in order to make any innovation-based project successful, it is essential to assure that the description of the initiative is clear and concise. More than that, it is imperative to develop a unique system for measuring the success of the innovation implementation. In this way, it is significant to know what are the desirable thresholds of innovation and measure them on a timely basis to see whether the change is beneficial or it is more relevant to terminate it (Proctor et al. 2015).

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Other Critical Factors

There are as well other important factors that are significant in order to sustain change. For instance, it is essential to focus on the motivation for change. It means that it is vital to be aware of the causes that drive senior management to invest in the introduction of change and correlate these causes with available resources (Moahi, Bwalya & Sebina 2017). That being said, if the motivation is to become innovative, it is of extreme criticality to guarantee that both financial (investment) and human (skills and knowledge) resources are sufficient for supporting the introduction of the innovation-based project. Otherwise, the risks of failure are high. What is even more critical, the inability to assess available resources in a proper way is inseparable from the risks of undesirable negative changes in the overall organisational performance, such as the potential drop in the quality of provided care or increased level of patient dissatisfaction.

Furthermore, it is significant to pay special attention to the agents for transformation. The role of change agents is very close to that of leaders because they may both motivate and demotivate people to support change (Moahi, Bwalya & Sebina 2017). In this case, champions – those willing to embrace change and develop constantly – are the best option for sustaining change because they are very similar to transformational leaders and promote innovation. Still, boundary spanners – those facilitating communication and fostering cooperation – may as well be helpful because they create an advantageous atmosphere in the working place (White, Dudley-Brown & Terhaar 2016).

Finally, the participation of stakeholders is critical for making the innovation project sustainable and successful. In this case, it is imperative to keep in mind and address specific needs of different groups of stakeholders, including external and internal. External stakeholders include patients and legal authorities. From the perspective of introducing innovation, any change should benefit patients and correspond with the national (in some cases, even international) legal provisions so that the risks of opposing the innovation are minimal. As for the internal stakeholders, this group stands for staff members, administration, and senior management. Their involvement is paramount because they drive the change so that if they oppose any project, it will not sustain (Moahi, Bwalya & Sebina 2017).

To sum up, sustaining innovation is a real challenge. It is true for organisations operating in all industries, and the health care sector in not an exception to this rule. However, regardless of the complexity of guaranteeing the sustainability of any innovation-based project, keeping in mind several groups of factors is beneficial for achieving this objective. That being said, the most critical factors include organisational (objectives, financial conditions, management and leadership styles, specificities of the workplace, and cooperation between team members in a particular organisation), individual (culture-based perception of change, competence, and professionalism of personnel), approach to change (systems thinking and the motivation for change), participation of stakeholders, and the role of change agents in the innovative process.

Reference

Abuhejleh, A, Dilaimi , M & Ellahham, S 2016, ‘Using lean management to leverage innovation in healthcare projects: case study of a public hospital in the UAE’, BMJ Innovation, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 22-32.

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Antwi, M & Kale, M 2014, Change management in healthcare: literature review, Queen’s School of Business, Kingston.

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Motacki, K & Burke, K 2017, Nursing delegation and management of patient care, 2nd edn, Elsevier, St. Louis, MO.

Peters, D H 2014, ‘The application of systems thinking in health: why use systems thinking?’, Health Research Policy and Systems, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 51-57.

Proctor, E, Like, D, Calhoun, A, McMillen, C, Brownson, R, McCrary, S & Padek, M 2015, ‘Sustainability of evidence-based healthcare: research agenda, methodological advances, and infrastructure support’, Implementation Science, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 88-100.

Stevens, K R, 2013, ‘The impact of evidence-based practice in nursing and the next big ideas’, The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, vol. 8, no. 2, p. 4.

White, K M, Dudley-Brown, S & Terhaar, M F 2016, Transformation of evidence in nursing and health care, 2nd edn, Springer, New York, NY.

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