The concept of innovation brings to mind the idea of revolutionary change, of never before seen breakthroughs and novel new ideas. But it doesn’t always have to be that dramatic.
It can be just as impactful when solutions are found for problems, when learning happens from past mistakes or from other people, or when what once seemed impossible becomes the normal way of doing business.
Health care is an example where we need to solve problems incrementally and continuously. Health care spending accounts for nearly 20 percent of our gross domestic product. Yet our system is fragile with high costs, operational inefficiencies, aging populations, projected nursing shortfalls and people waiting too long for care.
I am fortunate to be part of an organization that is fueled by a mission to ensure that no one waits for the care that they need. This means that we give caregivers the tools they need to provide quality, compassionate care by improving the flow of patients and resources throughout the system.
Think of the times that you or a loved one has waited — in the emergency department, for a hospital bed, for a discharge order. Waiting wastes time, but when there is flow within the system that waste is reduced. And that is an innovation that will attack nearly $3.5 trillion of spending in the U.S.
Learning from mistakes, history
One giant step forward in the field of medicine was the discovery of antibiotics, which saved, and continues to save, countless lives. This monumental innovation was identified by mistake.
Sir Alexander Fleming was searching for a wonder drug but threw away his experiments. He later noticed a contaminated petri dish contained a mold that was dissolving the bacteria around it and hence penicillin was created because of this mistake.
History is also great fuel for innovation and is my personal go-to. My strengths don’t lie in medical or technological innovations, but I do like process. So, when I face a new challenge, I start my problem-solving process by relying on past experiences.
For example, in a previous role I served internal customers and wanted to create a culture of customer excellence and process discipline. I leveraged lessons learned from my consulting background that resulted in improvements in our customer service ratings.
Innovation becomes the norm
Medical innovations have changed our lives. There are numerous advances that the medical community uses every day to improve the lives of their patients — X-ray, MRI, organ transplants, vaccines and prosthetic limbs are just a few examples.
At one point, these advances were thought to be beyond the scope of possibility — and now they are just woven into the daily fabric of our life.
Innovation is part of our lives in different ways and we all have the experience, creativity and ability to create innovation — either big or small — that can create lasting change that improves a business or improves a life.
Diane Watson is the COO of TeleTracking. Diane is responsible for TeleTracking’s services organization, which includes its client delivery team. She has a wealth of experience in consulting, information technology and general management. Her background includes the position of CIO at Medrad, a medical device manufacturer, as well as a long tenure at Andersen Consulting, currently Accenture.