Leading the Healthcare Innovation Agenda

By April 26, 2018General
Kristen Krull, VP Quality & Performance & Chief Nursing Executive

By: Kirsten Krull, VP Quality & Performance & Chief Nursing Executive, Hamilton Health Sciences

On a snowy weekend in early February, I participated in a hackathon hosted by Hacking Health Hamilton because I’m intrigued with the roots of business startups. I was part of a team with three other people from vastly different, non-health professional backgrounds. My team had interests in the problem of loneliness and social isolation among seniors, and the negative impacts this has on health and wellness. Over 16 hours, we developed a prototype of an app for elderly people to motivate and facilitate their engagement in meaningful activities. The hackathon had about 12 self-organizing, competitive teams all working on different problems and solutions. Prototypes, their conceptual underpinnings, and proposed value were all pitched for judging at the conclusion of the hackathon.

My small team appreciated winning one of the hackathon prizes, but the event’s greater value was in its power of bringing diverse thinkers together, and a clock that created a sense of urgency to spur ideation, yet methodically move through the development of an innovative solution. I believe the event is a snapshot of the healthcare world we are in, where understanding problems, generating new solutions with diverse thinkers, and getting into experimenting and refining solutions is the new norm. It’s about a “can do” attitude, collaboration, humble inquiry, leveraging mentors, sharing ideas, pitching prototypes, and being ready to receive sometimes harsh yet constructive feedback. Most importantly, it’s about surrounding ourselves with the wisdom of others, and working together to find new solutions to old problems. This spirit of collaboration and innovation is so palpable in Hamilton, and ever-growing.

This spirit of collaboration and innovation is so palpable in Hamilton, and ever-growing.

In the week following the Hacking Health event, an “Innovators Open Mic” event, hosted at Mohawk College, brought together a sampling of leaders from Hamilton-based technology startups to the podium to share their stories of their development journey. They were people with tenacity and drive for new solutions, a keen sense of listening for feedback, and astuteness to seize emerging levers of opportunities pushing their ideas to fruition. It was suddenly obvious to me why it takes a community to nurture innovation and strengthen the odds of ideas making their way to market.

Take a look and you’ll see quite a vast network of supports in our Hamilton community that also build linkages to others in Ontario, Canada, and globally. At Hamilton Health Sciences, we’re taking big steps to help foster the innovation milieu in Hamilton. Last year, we launched the Innovation Exchange in partnership with IBM Canada, which aims to pair local health innovation start-ups with HHS and IBM resources and expertise to drive projects aimed at improving health care. We’re also a key player in the Synapse Life Sciences Consortium, the central hub for Hamilton’s local health innovation ecosystem.

Hamilton Health Sciences has an important role to play in the health and future of this ecosystem. As one of Canada’s largest teaching hospitals, we have the means and the responsibility to find ways to provide the best care possible for our patients. More and more, that means thinking and working outside of our own box.

Here’s how I’d encourage us all to become more involved in innovation-based work and thinking:

  • Through resources like the Innovation Exchange, become more involved in stages of product evolution, from early conceptualizing through testing and refinement.
  • Pitch vexing problems from our Continuous Quality Improvement work with those who have the means to develop disruptive solutions that could bring substantial value to our clients and stakeholders.
  • Offer our diverse intelligence, and vast networks of knowledge experts, to shape solutions.
  • Facilitate connections to the voices of our clients who should be heard for effective design of solutions.
  • Share insights of how administrators, particularly in hospital settings, navigate the process of decision-making on new products, and what would drive greater interest and uptake.
  • Open our doors to provide the grounds for real life testing, evaluation, and refinement of prototypes at various stages of development.
  • Use new technology that we’ve been involved in designing, demonstrating the value of the product to would-be future buyers, and contributing to marketing approaches.

As one of Canada’s largest teaching hospitals, we have the means and the responsibility to find ways to provide the best care possible for our patients.

We’re very fortunate to work in a city with two major academic organizations, world-class healthcare organizations, top-ranking research teams, and a diversity of knowledge that spans all sorts of industries and professional disciplines. The track record of technology developments are striking and growing across Hamilton.

In addition, the Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services released the Broader Public Sector Primer on Innovation Procurement last year. While new, it offers support for organizations like ours who are looking to lead in more early market engagement and innovation procurement models.

Hamilton Health Sciences staff and physicians should see themselves as key players in our system of innovation, and step deeper into this exciting time of transformation. Together, in collaboration with those around us, we’re capable of improving quality of life, health care, and the economy of our city.

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