If you think innovation is a complex task, try supporting innovation.
Financial support to innovators in the form of early stage grants or later stage equity or debt is one thing, but supporting innovators still isn’t the same as supporting innovation as a process.
To support innovation in healthcare delivery as a process, R4D took a network-based approach to generating new information and incentives around private sector-based healthcare models. We enlisted organizations with common goals of improving the quality and accessibility of private for-profit and non-profit healthcare, and we co-created shared activities to achieve those goals, starting with building a database of over 1,000 and counting private sector healthcare programs--now the core of the Center for Health Market Innovations (CHMI).
Performing these activities as a network is important, and not just because they’re hard work and it’s nice to share the burden. Networks are also the first step in using emergence to take social innovations to scale:
“Emergence has a life-cycle. It begins with networks, shifts to intentional communities of practice and evolves into powerful systems capable of global influence…By applying the lessons of living systems and working intentionally with emergence and it's life-cycle, we have become confident that local social innovations can be taken to scale and provide solutions to many of the world's most intractable issues.” (Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Friese, 2006)
As in indication of CHMI's potential for global influence, this week The Bulletin of the World Health Organization published a first-of-its-kind study detailing how eHealth is being used to improve the quality, accessibility, and affordability of privately delivered health care for the poor in developing countries. (Read the CHMI study online or download the PDF)
Using data obtained through systematic searches for innovative health programs led by partners in 16 countries, the study found that eHealth was a fundamental component of the model for 176 of 657 health programs analyzed in more than 100 countries. For those that used eHealth in some way, six broad trends emerged:
- Extending geographical access to overcome distance between physicians and patients,
- Facilitating patient communications between health workers and patients,
- Improving diagnosis and treatment for health workers,
- Improving data management,
- Streamlining financial transactions, and
- Mitigating fraud and abuse
It was clear in CHMI’s report and others in the bulletin that there is a gaping need for further evidence “to suggest which kinds of eHealth interventions were wise investments,” in the words of Kate Otto in The Huffington Post. That’s a need CHMI will continue exploring ways to fill, as a network on the path toward becoming a system of global influence.
Photo: A nurse at the Rural Health Unit 1 enters data in the Community Health Information Tracking System (CHITS), an electronic medical record system developed for the Wireless Access for Health Program in Tarlac, Philippines. (Credit: Nacho Hernandez/CHMI)
Oscar Abello is senior program associate for communications at R4D.