Leading Innovation in Healthcare in Unprecedented Times


During times of crisis there is a greater need to be more innovative in the field of healthcare. Covid-19 epitomizes an unprecedented time of crisis that has provided numerous opportunities to make significant contributions to innovation in healthcare, writes Dr Claudine Kearney.

Dr Claudine Kearney

The immediate need to cope with this crisis has created new ways of delivering healthcare such as telemedicine and digital health. There is now opportunity to make permanent changes that will develop healthcare innovations for the advancement of medicine now and into the future.  However, while innovation in healthcare is particularly challenging in a sector that is dealing with people’s lives in a complex and dynamic environment, it is through an entrepreneurial spirit that clinicians, healthcare professionals, key staff and experts are motivated to create and develop new innovations.

Healthcare leaders need to drive this entrepreneurial spirit and vision that accomplishes the imaginable; in doing this they facilitate and encourage idea generation and creativity, support moderate risk-taking, tolerate failure as part of the innovation process, promote learning, challenge assumptions with the goal of creating greater patient value and care and embrace innovation across the field of healthcare. Healthcare leaders that are authentic and honest, and demonstrate humility, curiosity, optimism, appreciation and compassion, are better equipped to cope with the challenges and engage with their team(s) to drive an entrepreneurial spirit throughout the organization. It is through the integration of authentic, transformational and compassionate leadership with an entrepreneurial mindset that entrepreneurial leadership is achieved. Such an entrepreneurial approach to leadership can develop innovations that go beyond the current pandemic and maximize the benefit to patients and staff into the future.

Healthcare needs entrepreneurial leaders to make innovation happen and keep making it happen through their people – leading to better health and healthcare for all society

Innovation is paramount to healthcare and does not happen without people at all levels throughout the organization and beyond. Leaders must recognize the value of each member of their team in the innovation process and understand that the most innovative members of staff are generally not at the top level of the organization. Entrepreneurial leaders need to motivate all their team to explore and exploit viable innovative opportunities by allowing the necessary time, resources and support for “out-of-the box” thinking among healthcare professionals and experts internal within the organization in collaboration with external experts across diversely appropriate disciplines. Such leadership requires an open, flexible and strategic approach to work with the team to drive innovations that will lead to the delivery of better patient care. Therefore, innovation can be developed through the right leadership, teamwork and collaboration, combined with time and resources in order to achieve and sustain optimal performance.

Significant innovations have been evident in areas such as drug development, vaccines, therapeutics and technologies including ICT-integrated biotechnology-efficient disease prevention and well-being programs, precision medicine, genome editing, gene therapy, organ production, stem-cell therapy, 3D printing, robotics, smart pills, synthetic biology, telemedicine and wearable monitors. These innovations are transforming medicine and will continue to be further advanced and developed, having a significant impact on the future of healthcare for patients, healthcare professionals, healthcare providers, payers, policymakers and all stakeholders. Healthcare needs entrepreneurial leaders to make innovation happen and keep making it happen through their people – leading to better health and healthcare for all society.

Dr Claudine Kearney is a Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Strategy and Programme Director for the MSc in Leadership and Innovation in Healthcare at the RCSI, Graduate School of Healthcare Management.


Further development can be found in the following reference:

Kearney, C. (2022) Leading Innovation and entrepreneurship in Healthcare: A Global Perspective, Edward Elgar Publishing.