3 Keys to Crowdsourcing That Drive Innovation in the Healthcare Industry

Filed Under Innovation

The 3 Keys to Crowdsourcing that Drive Innovation in Healthcare

July 2, 2014

Like all industries, the healthcare sector is highly competitive; success depends not only on reducing costs and improving efficiency, but also on delivering a remarkable patient experience. Healthcare professionals are now relying increasingly on innovation to offer differentiated services. Innovation done right depends largely on mechanized crowdsourcing, or tapping into ideas from the wider professional community. That includes experienced professionals within the industry, as well as an organization’s internal “crowd” (employees).

Here are 3 keys to crowdsourcing that drive innovation in the healthcare industry.

1. Make Connections

Innovation requires moving away from one’s comfort zone, and in healthcare, this often means seeking inspiration from other, unrelated industries. However, merely importing ideas from other sectors is nothing more than copying — not innovating. And, considering the uniqueness of the healthcare industry, plagiarized ideas are pretty likely to fail. Successful innovators cross-pollinate ideas, and find logical connections amongst them to create the larger picture.

Mind maps can help the would-be innovator easily understand how concepts relate to one another. This broader, clearer visualization of challenges and ideas helps the innovator to better understand and apply new approaches in the proper context, which, much of the time, leads to breakthroughs that may not have otherwise happened.

2. Facilitate Structured Storytelling

Most knowledge transfers within the healthcare industry take place through storytelling, or when experiences are shared throughout a strong, informal network. The challenge for innovators is to be able to tap into these networks and leverage the maximum number of stories from the widest audience. However, the siloed nature of the healthcare landscape, accentuated by different cultural norms in different geographies, makes this a daunting task.

Novant Health, a not-for-profit integrated healthcare system, has tapped into social technology to develop a platform that allows caregivers — ranging from doctors to nurses, to lab technicians and administrators — to share their stories and, therefore, collaborate across hierarchal and political boundaries. In order to effectively crowdsource ideas from their full employee base, Novant Health uses an innovation management platform to align stakeholders with the strategic objectives of the organization and allow them to collaborate on different solutions. These healthcare professionals share experiences and disparate perspectives, which inspires everyone in the crowd to cultivate and reshape new ideas. Novant consistently uses ideas generated through crowdsourcing to drive key innovations and productive achievements, such as reducing their product development cycle down to eight weeks, saving time and money.

3. Foster a Cultural Shift

Sometimes, business leaders choose to avoid leveraging their internal crowds because doing so requires much more than just asking for ideas. It requires a transparent and open company culture, where free thinking is encouraged and healthy discussions are promoted across the organization. Meanwhile, all this has to be reconciled with patent privacy laws that may mandate disclosure of certain information.

A cultural shift like this also requires a strong technical framework. UnitedHealth, the largest health and well-being company in the United States, has created an open innovation program that gives employees and their ideas easy and transparent access to leaders. The system is open, allowing employees to read, comment on other posts, submit ratings, and collaborate using discussion threads. There is also a voting system in place, taking crowdsourcing to its logical conclusion.

Innovation in healthcare shouldn’t only reduce cost and improve efficiency; it should also allow for the creation and development of new products and services, and improve employee and customer engagement. These 3 keys to crowdsourcing will help you generate creative, free flowing ideas for your business.