How health innovators become better collaborators

June 17, 2018 · 7 min read · By ASU Online

The role of innovation in health care is multifaceted. Innovative technology is leading to better health outcomes for patients across the world each day. At the same time, health professionals continue to develop new methods for collaboration. Together, innovation and collaboration work to accomplish the same goal of creative change throughout the industry.


What is health innovation?

Health care is constantly evolving, with scientific breakthroughs, transformations and teamwork. As a result, graduates of an online bachelor of science in health innovation have the opportunity to be part of groundbreaking developments and new collaborative efforts. Progress in this field ranges from disease prevention and treatment to nutrition, health awareness, public policy and more.

At its core, health care has always been about saving and improving lives. Our understanding of biology and technology has evolved over time, and so have the methods health professionals use to accomplish their goals. Health innovation is the development of new and creative ways for providers to achieve those goals.

According to researchers in the Harvard Business Review article, “Putting Humans at the Center of Health Care Innovation,” health care innovation remains far too linear. The researchers identified that even the latest breakthroughs in medical science continue to follow the same fundamental path:

  1. Basic and applied research
  2. Clinical trials
  3. Marketing, production and implementation

These are valuable steps grounded in core concepts like research methods, health care policy and technology. An undergraduate degree in health innovation covers these basics, along with courses addressing the challenges that may appear when this traditional path is followed too rigidly. Today, health care innovation is focused on redesigning the fundamental processes involved in the development of medical devices, procedures and standards of care. In some cases, this may require health workers to rebuild their understanding of certain concepts or procedures.

This new dimension of health care innovation is possible thanks to increased collaboration between doctors, patients, administrators and others in the field. Scientists and health care providers have historically collaborated through academic journals that incorporate a peer review process. However, some argue there are still critical elements of collaboration missing in health care, and a health innovation degree can help students to identify and address these shortcomings.

Two doctors sitting down speaking with other professionals.

How can innovators become better collaborators?

The authors of the Harvard Business Review article offer the mammogram as an example of how traditional health innovation may be imperfect. This procedure rose to prominence in the 1950s and was considered the gold standard for the early detection of breast cancer. Years later, additional research from a wide range of health care professionals showed that mammograms were less reliable than previously believed and had even led to a number of false positives. In addition, the test was anxiety-inducing and uncomfortable for patients.

Today, health providers are reevaluating their policies and guidelines around mammograms to improve patient outcomes and experiences. They may achieve these goals by drawing on expertise in traditional medicine, bioethics and process implementation, - subjects students can explore in an undergraduate health innovation program.

How do improvements to the mammogram procedure relate to collaboration and innovation in the health care industry as a whole? Recommendations for improved health care innovation illustrate how medical breakthroughs like the mammogram could be enhanced if there were a greater emphasis on collaboration. Innovators can become better collaborators by:

  • Hosting forums for stakeholders from various industries to share problem-solving techniques that may help accelerate future innovation
  • Dedicating project managers who can coordinate across disciplines
  • Setting specific goals to keep professionals with various backgrounds and skills focused on the outcomes

The disconnect between medical consensus and patient outcomes has prompted a new wave of thinking around all aspects of health care. Health innovation bachelor’s degree programs can help students learn to think about health care holistically, from both the providers’ and the patients’ points of view. These approaches have already spurred the creation of new projects in hospitals and medical research organizations, where innovation and collaboration are key themes.

Collaboration can help innovators address sensitive health care needs

The Helix Centre is an initiative within a major London hospital that is looking to develop new, innovative models for collaboration between medical professionals and patients.

A recent project conceived under the Helix Centre model focuses on improving end-of-life care. According to studies cited by the Helix Centre, only 12 percent of people in the U.K. over 75 have an advance care directive outlining which medical actions should be taken if an individual is unable to make decisions for themselves due to illness or injury. Advance care directives have been shown to alleviate stress and confusion for families concerning end-of-life care of loved ones.

In collaboration with experts, Helix Centre’s creative teams developed what they called an emergency care and planning toolkit. Using a series of thoughtfully designed charts and instructions, this toolkit helps people begin the difficult conversations with their families and doctors about how they envision their own end-of-life care. This can aid in the creation of a legally binding advance care directive, resulting in less stress for patients and their families when the time comes to make many seemingly impossible decisions.

The communication and collaboration skills professionals must exercise to handle such delicate matters may be learned in an undergraduate health innovation program. Courses can cover material like writing, psychology, leadership and research methods. Students who are particularly interested in improving end-of-life care may also want to consider courses on death and dying, health care policy and conflict resolution.


Collaboration across disciplines

The Helix Centre’s innovative approach to medicine is in many ways modeled after similar initiatives with one common thread: interdisciplinary design, or the practice of collaborating on an initiative that spans multiple fields.

Like the Helix Centre, several earlier projects founded by health researchers in the U.S. also began placing a strong emphasis on input from non-medical professionals as they looked to reshape the modern medical practice.

  • The Mayo Clinic established the Center for Innovation in 2008 to tackle challenges like poor communication using a cross-disciplinary approach. One CFI project called OB Nest allowed pregnant women to spend less time in the doctor’s office while still improving satisfaction.
  • Another similar project came out of the Center for Global Health of the Massachusetts General Hospital. Known as the Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies, or CAMTech, this initiative brought together medical professionals as well as experts in design, information technology and other nonmedical fields. Hosting events like hack-a-thons and business incubators, CAMTech is now an open-source network of innovative ideas comprising more than 4,300 interdisciplinary experts.
  • The Health Entrepreneurship Accelerator Lab (ASU E+I @ HEAL) at Arizona State University offers students and faculty a unique space designed to help launch and support new health care initiatives. The lab is located at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus, and is supported through a partnership between the school’s Entrepreneurship + Innovation programs and College of Nursing and Health Innovation. This space encourages creativity and thought leadership with a monthly guest speaker series, pitch competitions, faculty mentoring opportunities and weekly networking/idea-generation meetings for students.

Explore your future in health innovation

Innovation and collaboration are crucial elements of success in any line of work, but they are particularly important in the health care industry. Students enrolled in the online Bachelor of Science in Health Innovation program from Arizona State University can learn more about global health care collaboration initiatives, giving them the tools and knowledge needed to participate in this growing and constantly evolving field of study. Students can also delve into the science behind innovation itself, with coursework focusing on topics like business modeling, innovation science, health leadership and health care technology. ASU Online also offers a Bachelor of Applied Science in Health Entrepreneurship and Innovation for students who have already earned an Associate of Applied Science degree.

ASU graduates may already be heavily involved in collaborative, innovative future efforts in this field. Learn more about the online BS in Health Innovation program to find out if a future in this exciting field is right for you.

ASU Online - Health Innovation (BS)
Harvard Business Review - Putting Humans at the Center of Health Care Innovation
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force - Final Recommendation Statement
The Cochrane Library - Screening for breast cancer with mammography
Mayo Clinic - Center for Innovation
Mayo Clinic - ‘OB Nest’: A Novel Approach to Prenatal Care
Mass General Hospital Global Health - CAMTech

a group of people in a conference room
ASU Graduation Commencement 2018


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