Designing Innovation

There is an alarming number of preventable deaths in US hospitals each year according to this article from McKinsey Quarterly, and thus, there was an initiative by a non-profit organization called the Institute of Healthcare Improvement (IHI) that set a mandate to reduce the number of preventable deaths by 100,000 in one year.  It succeeded after one year, and it was able to enroll 75% of all US hospitals.   

As a non-profit, it neither wielded authority nor influence on hospital board of governors, it also faced the unyielding attitudes towards change, differing stakeholder goals, shortness of resources and time  and as such it already faced an uphill battle for this initiative to be implemented.  

How was IHI able to reach its target despite these enormous setbacks? It had to make its initiatives easy to understand and to remember for all stakeholders (nurses, doctors, etc.).   In peer-reviewed medical journals, there is a plethora of information that aids in the amelioration of hospital operations.  IHI took the time consuming part of disseminating this information and presenting and selecting six key criteria that can help with its mission.  

This program was flexible in that not all six criteria needed to be followed and adhered to.  Still, it was crucial some of it required stakeholders to be aware of and adhere to.  Goals were clearly defined with a set timeline and set metrics.  The long term goals (lofty) and short term goals (concrete) were in sync.  Accountability was taken into account by having weekly conference calls and mass emails.

Hospitals that were pioneers of this program, could support and help other hospitals that are starting to implement this initiative.  To encourage additional hospitals to participate, a national network of IHI participants was formed.   Actually, an additional benefit of this alliance, included the motivating the current network of hospitals towards excellence.

I think that both individuals and businesses can learn from this IHI case study.  By defining a clear problem, and defining a clear long-term and smaller and reachable short term goals, using a network of like-minded participants, and thinking in the shoes of the party that one wants to influence.  Anticipating the client’s needs and making their lives/jobs easier by completing the tasks that maybe resource and time intensive and be flexible and understand that not all implementation steps maybe followed.  By combining all of the above should yield solid and sustainable results.


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