How efficiency innovation and quality improvement overlap in healthcare
In today’s rapidly evolving healthcare sector, understanding the spectrum of innovation is vital. As the global innovation leader in business tool creators, the Strategyzer organization defines this spectrum as a continuum ranging from “Explore” to “Exploit”, with each end representing a unique approach to business innovation. At one end, we have “Explore”, which is centered around the creation of novel business model innovations. At the other end, “Exploit” focuses on maximizing the effectiveness of existing business models through process innovation and performance improvement.
Strategyzer founder Alex Osterwalder often quotes innovation pioneer Steve Blank explaining it this way: “Execution (the Exploit side) pays your salary; Innovation (the Explore side) pays your pension.”
Efficiency innovation meets quality in healthcare
Efficiency Innovation, which largely aligns with the “Exploit” end of the spectrum, is already the driving principle within the well-established field of Quality Improvement (QI), which often integrates elements of Patient Safety. The goal of QI in healthcare is to enhance the efficiency, effectiveness, and appropriateness of patient care, embodying the essence of efficiency innovation.
If we peel back the layers, we find a remarkable parallel between the goals of Efficiency Innovation and QI. They both prioritize the same fundamental principles: process improvements, performance optimization, and maximizing the value delivered. This uncovers an enlightening revelation that, in the healthcare realm, QI and Efficiency Innovation can — and do — work hand in hand.
Because healthcare is a field characterized by high stakes, high risk and potentially high variability, QI methodologies naturally focus on documenting processes and errors, reducing risk, and looking for patterns that can help identify the root of problem areas.
Healthcare education adapts
What’s more, this growing recognition has sparked a shift in educational offerings, with many prestigious institutions now offering graduate degrees focusing on Quality Improvement and Safety:
- Harvard University
- Johns Hopkins University
- George Washington University
- Northwestern University
- Cornell University
- University of Pennsylvania
- University of Alabama at Birmingham
Among these graduate programs a core set of competencies defines and shapes the curriculum — data analysis, Lean Six Sigma methodologies, and an unwavering commitment to healthcare excellence.
Graduate students in these programs effectively use data analysis tools and techniques to make informed decisions and guide strategic interventions and improvements.
Historically, a significant component of these programs has revolved around Lean Six Sigma methodologies. Originally a process innovation originating within the manufacturing industry, Lean Six Sigma has found its rightful place in healthcare, promising to reduce waste and variability, streamline processes, and ultimately deliver better patient care.
These programs may include other courses such as Health Informatics, Performance Measurement and Improvement, Patient Safety Culture, and Risk Assessment, each specifically designed to equip them with the necessary skills to navigate and enhance the complex terrain of healthcare.
Real world application
In many larger hospital systems, designated QI specialists are leading cross-functional teams devoted to driving performance enhancement within their organizations.
Building on extensive experience in the fields of journalism, media production, and learning design and development, John Marc Green’s newest adventure is serving as Director of CHIME Innovation. In this role, his ongoing conversations with CHIME Members and Partners provide insights and direction to serve their interests in a variety of ways, including digital healthcare innovation journalism, professional development events and program facilitation, and on-demand educational development through CHIME Innovation.