Health Care News

5 Tools to Kick-Start Innovation at Your Health Center

People around a table at Innovation workshop

This post is part of our monthly Innovation Blog Series hosted by NACHC’s Center for Community Health Innovation. Camila Silva is NACHC’s Deputy Director of Innovation.

Are innovation efforts at your Community Health Center intentional or are they simply an item on your to-do list?

Monday to-do list:

☐ Help patients have a better waiting room experience 

☐ Find extended hours coverage at front desk

☐ Decrease patient wait times

☐ Troubleshoot EHR for specific code

☐ Find an innovative project (?)

If this is what your to-do list looks like, innovation is not likely one of your top priorities. Yet, often we are asked to be more creative or suggest innovative projects. How are we supposed to do that when there are other more pressing priorities needing our time and attention?

When this happens, innovation becomes an afterthought. Innovation for the sake of innovation often leads nowhere. Instead, try changing the way you approach innovation; innovation can be employed as a strategy to solve the other items on your to-do list.

That is exactly what NACHC’s Center for Community Health Innovation sought to address during the FOM/IT’s Innovation Workshop in October. We discussed the Four Types of Innovation as proposed by the Harvard Business Review and then rolled up our sleeves to work together on some easy-to-use activities that any organization can adapt to help them solve all kinds of issues.

While there are many tools for innovation, we selected the following based on their ease of use and their applicability to the health center ecosystem.

  1. Immersion
    • When someone reports an issue, there is a possibility that that issue is simply a symptom of the actual problem. The immersion technique will allow your team to immerse itself into the life of the people impacted by the problem. Low staffing at the front desk impacts not only the staff but also the patients, and it is vital to understand the issue at hand from all perspectives.
    • Immersion will allow you to gather insights so that later you can better define the problem you are trying to solve.
  2. Build a Team
    • “If you want to go fast, go alone; If you want to go far, go together.”
    • Building the right team will allow you to bring different perspectives, which in the end can save both time and money.
    • Don’t forget, a team can also benefit from external input.
  3. How Might We …?
    • Transform our insights gathered from the Immersion into “how might we” statements. This allows the team to better define the problem at hand, while also allowing for multiple solutions.
  4. Sailboat
    • In business school they review the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Strengths) analysis ad nauseum. The Sailboat is a different way to get similar insights, while in my opinion, allowing for more open and frank conversation.
  5. Brainstorm
    • This is the time to let multiple ideas flourish. Normally, we all have a tendency to self-filter and by having a structure in place for wild ideas we create a safe space to fail and to try new things.

After walking through these activities, your team will be able to prototype and test the ideas. This is an essential part of the process. By creating low-fidelity prototypes, you are able to gather user perspectives (both patient and staff), make edits, and test again.

Want to dive deeper into each of these activities? Take a look at the FOM/IT 2022 Innovation Workshop Activity Booklet. It will guide you step-by-step through these different activities.

How will you use innovation to narrow down your to-do list? Please share your examples in the comment section below.