So, you have a great idea that will transform the delivery of health care services? That’s terrific. But if these three critical steps aren’t in place to foster widespread adoption of your idea, the benefit of your innovation may be limited.

We spoke with three health care innovation experts from Toronto, Ontario. On the eve of McKesson’s Better Health Toronto event, they shared their thoughts on the key catalysts needed to spread transformative products, services or processes across an entire health care system.


Three Critical Steps on the Path to the Wide Adoption of Health Innovations

Step 1: Demonstrate value for both individual users and major stakeholders.

On a micro level, there is no shortage of good ideas, says Alexander Levy, CEO of MyVoice, a developer of mobile health applications that give voice to people whose medical conditions have left them with speech disabilities.

However, in order for those ideas to be adopted, would-be innovators and entrepreneurs must convince users of a new product, service or process that there’s something in it for them. It doesn’t have to be in the financial sense, according to Levy, but rather enabling the user to become part of something bigger, something long-lasting and something that will truly change things for the better.

“The collaborative model is central to the way forward.” –Anne Snowdon, academic chair, International Centre for Health Innovation

“No one wants to be an advocate for a new idea if it’s not going to go anywhere or have a short or limited shelf life,” Levy says. “Users must believe that in their work lifetime, not 30 or 40 years down the road, the new idea will be adopted and will become the new way of doing things.”

On a macro level, for widespread adoption of an innovation to occur, would-be innovators and entrepreneurs must convince all the major stakeholders along the health care delivery chain that a new product, service or process is good for their respective segment of the industry and good for their respective business health, according to Anne Snowdon, academic chair at the International Centre for Health Innovation of the Ivey Business School at Western University.

For example, if an innovation is good for hospitals but not good for doctors, it may never scale. The same unsatisfactory results may occur if it’s good for patients but not for payers, whether they’re private or public.

“There must be shared value in the innovation, meaning the innovation’s value proposition must be attractive to all the major players,” Snowdon says. “If not, it’s highly unlikely that the innovation will be adopted and scale across the system.”

Step 2: Collaboration is crucial to the spread of transformative ideas.

How transformative ideas spread from individual to individual or stakeholder to stakeholder within a geographic market or across an entire health care delivery system depends largely on the level of collaboration between individuals and stakeholders, according to the three innovation experts.

They say innovative products, services or processes that are not shared have little chance of moving beyond a specific site or demonstration project to prove their value to a wider audience.

Matthew Mendelsohn, founding director of the Mowat Centre, a public policy think tank in the School of Public Policy at the University of Toronto, explains “We see pilot projects and experimentation to see what works and what doesn’t work,” Mendelsohn says. “But we haven’t had sufficient follow through because we’re not prepared to take the next step.”

Mendelsohn says would-be innovators and entrepreneurs must be committed to rolling out their ideas more broadly to a wider audience. That’s where government policy can play an important role as a catalyst to the widespread adoption of transformative health care innovations, the three experts say.

Step 3: Government policy must promote innovation, collaboration.

National, regional and local governments have legislative and policy frameworks based on past and traditional structures of the health care delivery system that often protect the status quo, according to Mendelsohn.

However, pressure from consumers and patients who want greater access, better quality and lower costs for health care services — and who have benefited from innovations in other areas of their lives like retail — is slowly changing government policy for the better, he says. The policy needle is moving away from supporting the status quo to supporting innovations in care delivery, according to Mendelsohn.

Government policy should not only promote innovation in health care delivery, Snowdon says. It should specifically promote collaboration as the primary vessel through which transformative health care ideas can be shared across a health care system and have their value tested and validated by all stakeholders. The end result is widespread adoption of ideas that address specific patient jobs to be done.

“The collaborative model is central to the way forward,” Snowdon says.

History shows that widespread adoption of transformative health care innovations can happen informally or by chance. But as Levy, Snowdon and Mendelsohn argue, a better, more predictable path is available, and that path is paved by demonstrated value, stakeholder collaboration and favorable government policy.

Innovator Insight: Entrepreneurs must be able to articulate and demonstrate the value of an innovation to the individual using the product, service or process and to the major segments of the health care delivery system if the innovation is to be widely adopted.