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The Power of Clinically-Led Innovation in Healthcare



clinically-led innovations
Image created by Rudy Chidiac. © Open Medical 2024. All Rights Reserved

Clinically-led innovations in healthcare are important as they directly address the real-world challenges clinicians face and ensure that innovations are both relevant and effective. So in this article, we'll explore further into:


  • What is clinically-led innovation?

  • What are its benefits?

  • What are the challenges?

  • And some guidance for achieving it


What is clinically-led innovation?

Clinical innovation is really about clinician-led co-design. 


There is a lot of technology out there in the industry, and a lot of it is designed with different user groups in mind. Ultimately, the innovations that have proved to have the most value and demonstrated the most benefits are the ones that have had significant clinician involvement all the way through, from the early concept through to scale and adoption. 


These innovations tend to solve real problems; they’re not just chasing the headlines.


And additionally, clinicians recognise the importance of patient choice, advocacy, and shared decision-making, and this is often represented in their innovations. At Open Medical, for example, we have a Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement committee to ensure that the patient voice is captured within any innovations that we provide because, in the end, the solutions are designed for their benefit.


Benefits of clinically-led innovation

One of the real benefits is that these innovations have been thought through operationally and designed in such a way that they can be effectively used within a clinical environment.

They focus on how an innovation works in practice rather than on a theoretical idea of how it could work.


Often, theoretical benefits don’t survive the challenge of real-world clinical pressures. There’s an understanding that healthcare is extremely pressured, and the innovations really have to fit within that environment.


The other benefits are really around adoption, which can be a major challenge in healthcare technology.


It’s reasonably straightforward to get something piloted once. It’s very challenging to get it scaled and adopted across entire healthcare systems. Again, this challenge is often solved if the innovation is clinically-led because the leadership and design team behind that innovation really understand the end user. If you provide tools that the clinicians can utilise efficiently and safely and that make their day-to-day work easier, then they will naturally adopt them, and you’ll release a lot of those benefits in a much more defined way.


There have been difficulties in this area with earlier technologies implemented in healthcare, with things like the electronic patient record systems—there are some cases where the value hasn’t yet been realised because they don’t have that very strong clinical focus behind them.


Challenges and solutions

Early on, the challenge is always getting your innovation utilised. Depending on what your innovation is, there is, quite rightly, a very high regulatory threshold. You need to make sure that your innovation reaches that level in terms of information governance, security principles, and so on. And this can be a challenge, particularly as that pathway is not necessarily easily defined. 


The other resistance is often found where there is divergence from strategy. Technology is moving at such a fast pace, and strategic agendas tend to be set on a slower cycle, especially in regards to technology and innovation. Often, a new innovation appears that may conflict with the agenda in the short term, which can lead to people not understanding the value that this innovation can offer. Tackling that means encouraging and fostering the environment where innovation can flourish rather than stifling it due to the underlying long-term strategic agenda. That really only gets solved from the executive level down.


Looking at ways to tackle the challenges, persistence certainly helps. If you are a clinician working in this area, you will understand the daily problems and the magnitude of what you are facing. It’s unlikely that those problems are going to go away if they’ve caused you an issue to the point where you’ve tried to develop a solution to solve them.


Things do move and change; if you are persistent and confident that your innovation is correct, then continue. Early on, that’s what got us through at Open Medical. We also have a significant amount of technical expertise and that has really helped us thrive in that environment so we’d encourage people to look for a strong technical partner unless you have sufficient technical expertise yourself.


Advice for people looking to launch innovative projects in their own organisations


  1. First and foremost, if you believe in it, be persistent. It can take some time to get things done.

  2. Listen to the feedback that you get, because that’s how you learn. You might improve your offering based on that.

  3. If people initially tell you no, try to understand why. Ask them for the solution—what would make them say yes?

  4. The other thing that people sometimes miss is asking for counterfactuals. By that, it means asking what happens if no one uses the innovation. Sometimes, particularly with large innovations, there is a sense of inertia, and it can be difficult to instigate change. The cost or implication of not taking the innovation on is often overlooked, so it’s probably worth trying to identify that. It will help you in your own proposition because you’ll be able to take that forward and state the benefits.


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