Let the light in

There is a crack in everything

  1. Shirlene Oh

Author: Shirlene Oh, Director of Commerce, Innovation and Capability Development, Imperial College Health Partners

‘There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’, sings Leonard Cohen.

The light has gotten in to a number of trusts where teams are systematically supported to solve problems, resulting in innovative ways of working, adopting best practices and creating learning networks.

In an environment where there is constant pressure to deliver daily operational results, finding the headroom to systematically try new approaches to solving problems can be challenging.

Yet, this is what a number of trusts are achieving. Imperial College Health Partners’ (ICHP) ‘Intrapreneur Programme’ brings learning from organisations in other sectors to inspire trusts who embrace innovation to make a step change in care and its delivery.

Creating green housing behaviours

Leaders are on a journey in North West London to create the ‘green housing’ behaviours, time and space for their teams. Key roles include navigating organisational governance, connecting with relevant parts of the organisation, protecting the time teams require and nurturing promising innovation projects.

Ninety-five per cent of participants agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “I know what it takes to make innovation thrive on the ground in our trust and I feel empowered to play my part” after completing the programme, compared to 40% of participants before they started the programme.

Guided by ICHP’s partners in this programme, ?WhatIf!, teams spend time truly identifying the problem to be solved and gaining insights. All participants agreed/strongly agreed with the statement “I have the skills to gather deep patient and colleague insight quickly” compared to just a third before the programme.

New approaches to problem solving

Teams are strongly encouraged to scout for innovation and best practices rather than to reinvent, and then to experiment and learn. Over 90% of participants felt they have the freedom to try new approaches to the problems they face after completing the programme, compared to 33% before the programme. ICHP have chosen to work with ?WhatIf! because of the wealth of experience they have gained from working with global organisations to ‘unlock the promise of innovation’ to solve some of their biggest challenges.

East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust has adapted a best practice virtual fracture clinic from a neighbouring trust, customised it for their trust and has collectively formed a network of trusts learning about how to run virtual fracture clinics.

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust has agreed that its project on patient safety should help inform the development of a communications and engagement campaign underpinning and supporting their safety culture activity.

Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust has progressed two intrapreneurial projects. The first has created choice in pathway for lung transplantation using multidisciplinary teleconferencing to reduce wasted waiting time for assessment, saving bed days and enhancing the patient experience. A more recent enterprise has developed a new model of care for stable respiratory outpatients using remote clinical review with an electronic self-assessment kit. Directors are working with trust collaborators to create the necessary ‘greenhousing’ environment for their teams to continue service improvements with their patients.

Building confidence

Teams feel significantly more confident having participated in the Intrapreneur programme. The statements “I’m confident sharing and building innovative ideas with other colleagues and service users” and “I’m confident engaging all our stakeholders in new ways of working and winning their support” were made by 100% of participants compared to 47% and 26% respectively prior to the programme.

Having supported numerous intrapreneurs since its inception, ICHP is choosing to invest in the ‘demand-side’ of the health ecosystem – those working in healthcare provision. Its learning journey has uncovered regulatory, structural, operational and cultural barriers and challenges to the adoption and diffusion of innovation that paralyse the best people working within the NHS. Without systemic adoption and diffusion, attempts to ‘push’ innovation will only get so far before meeting with the systemic barriers identified.

Accelerating innovation

That is not to say that ICHP has stopped supporting entrepreneurs. It continues to run innovation advice surgeries and in partnership with the Diagnostic Evidence Co-operative (DEC), supports entrepreneurs with health economics, human factors and market analysis of the healthcare sector to enable acceleration of their product into the NHS.

It may not be able to address all the systemic challenges, but a powerful way to overcome some of these is to ensure that those on the demand-side of the health ecosystem who are motivated to solve problems that they face, have the time, space, inspiration and ‘greenhousing’ behaviours to enable them to do so.

That’s how the light gets in

The light may have got through the crack. How many more cracks do we need for the space to be flooded with light?

Alternatively, please contact Shirlene Oh, Director of Commerce, Innovation and Capability Development at ICHP.

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