Leadership and inclusivity needed for innovation to transform healthcare

Dr. Claudine Kearney
Dr. Claudine Kearney

As we reflect on the last number of decades it is obvious how healthcare has been significantly transformed with unimaginable innovations resulting in outstanding advancements in medicine and science, writes Dr. Claudine Kearney.

Innovations in assessment procedures, diagnostics, treatments and delivery of care are critical to increase patient quality of life and life expectancy and enhance the delivery of high quality and safe care for all patients while also increasing efficiency, effectiveness, accessibility and reducing medical errors and costs.

As a society we are living longer, with an increasing number of people living with long-term morbidity and multiple comorbidities requiring continuous medical treatment. The future needs of healthcare are unpredictable and creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship are a necessity that needs to continue to further advance and develop the field of healthcare, transforming medicine and science from where we are now to what we can become in the future. Scientific and technological advancements are at the centre of healthcare innovation and likely to be for decades to come.

Innovation does not happen without people. Therefore to transform healthcare, leaders need to have an in-depth understanding of patients’ needs so they can drive creativity by empowering their people to explore and exploit opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship that will address those needs and advance the delivery of care, save lives and serve multiple stakeholders and society, for the ultimate goal that will result in better health, healthcare and well-being.

This can be best achieved when there is supportive leadership and equal opportunities for all suitably qualified and experienced healthcare professionals and staff to hold leadership roles and engage in the innovation process, utilising competencies and experiences and addressing fundamental gaps and defficiencies in healthcare delivery.

Innovation requires diverse competencies, therefore inclusivity and equitable opportunities for people to work together as a team at all levels within the organisation and in collaboration with key external stakeholders is key to the development of innovation. Healthcare organisations need to ensure they address any likely disparity of gender equality, and ensure overall equity and fairness in leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship. The most creative people are generally not at the top of the organisation, do not hold any one specific qualification, role or responsibility, but when given the opportunity are distributed among both male and female, with a range of qualifications and expertise, that are working in different roles and levels throughout the organisation and have passion and compassion to make a real difference. It is not about the gender or the position held but who is the best for the specific role as a leader, innovator, entrepreneur, or all three.

While this is not without its challenges in a healthcare sector that is highly regulated, dynamic, under-resourced and under immense pressure to do more with less. However, the ability of the organisation to address the daily healthcare needs, while at the same time having a futuristic approach to innovation, is challenging yet imperative. Innovation drives motivation and it is through this entrepreneurial vision that clinicians, healthcare professionals, key staff and experts have the passion to change the status quo and explore and exploit new innovations that will make positive advancements to healthcare.

The growing emphasis on the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship to healthcare should encourage leaders in healthcare organisations to support and facilitate more innovative ways to generate greater patient value into the future through the diverse competencies of their people. Innovation and entrepreneurship in healthcare needs to have a future oriented mindset that understands ‘one size does not fit all’ and a more personalised approach through effective interaction and collaboration between healthcare professionals, staff, stakeholders and other key experts internally and externally to develop future innovations that will further enhance healthcare and lead the world to better health!

Dr. Claudine Kearney is  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.