5 lessons learned for innovating inside a health care system

It’s exciting to come up with ideas that can potentially impact the world around you. But it’s not terribly easy to turn those concepts into working technology or products that people want to use or buy.

The Office of Innovation Management, a part of OSF Innovation, helps Mission Partners move their health care ideas from concept to reality.

Innovation process

We start with a discussion with the individual who has come up with a potential solution, to understand the problem they are trying to solve. Our team then does research on whether a product or service already exists that might solve the problem.

We talk with our own clinicians and subject matter experts to better understand the problem and get their candid thoughts on the proposed solution. And then we look into whether there is an opportunity for this concept to benefit not just OSF HealthCare, but other health care systems, as well.

If we find that an idea is big enough to pursue, we work with our internal teams, including Jump Simulation engineers and Healthcare Analytics, among others, as well as outside firms to create a proof of concept to help determine if it’s feasible, desirable and viable.

Once we have that, we need to test it with those who could be impacted by the solution and gather feedback along the way. It’s also during this stage we would decide whether to apply for intellectual property protection.

Next, we reach out to potential outside customers, such as other health care systems, to receive their feedback on a particular solution. If warranted, we also begin looking for additional partners that can help further develop our ideas as part of the process to bring them to market.

Depending on the solution, the path to market could be through an outside partner via a licensing or distribution agreement, or getting to market could be done more directly through an appropriate division of OSF HealthCare. The inventor is a partner in this whole process.

Lessons learned

Since our team’s inception about two-and-a-half years ago, we’ve seen upwards of 150 ideas submitted in a variety of ways. Some of these proposals have turned into improvement projects. Twenty are going down the product development line. And we’ve helped one inventor file a patent. It’s been quite the journey. Here are a few lessons we’ve picked up along the way.

Patience is a virtue

Depending on the maturity of a solution, it can take anywhere from nine to 18 months for an idea to go from concept to reality. For inventors, this can feel like a long time. However, this helps our team ensure we’ve taken the necessary steps to bring forward the best possible solution.

Validate problems sooner

A Mission Partner may have an idea they believe solves a major problem. But maybe others may disagree. We have to speak to potential customers to find out their pain points and ensure the proposed solutions provide value to them. That sets us up to create a value proposition that influences the end “customer,” whether internal or external, to understand why they should choose our product over others to meet their needs.

Develop a methodology to measure results

This would allow us to track the progress of an idea through the innovation process and enable us to know sooner whether we should move forward with a concept. It will also help us continue to learn over time and improve our process.

Tap into the minds of your colleagues

We have found that Mission Partners enjoy hearing about new ideas coming from their coworkers and want to help! They want to ask us the tough questions. They want to test the ideas. And they want to add their feedback. All we have to do is ask.

Innovation is not the same as patentability

A Mission Partner may come up with an innovative idea to solve a problem. But that doesn’t mean it can be patented. While the inventor might feel discouraged by this, it’s important they know that intellectual property is not THE measuring stick of whether something is innovative. All it means is that we have to take a different approach to bring an idea to market or to use it within OSF HealthCare.

Build it and they will come

We had an idea that giving our Mission Partners the opportunity to solve health care challenges would be welcome. And we’ve been pleasantly surprised at the response we’ve received by establishing an idea submission process. Mission Partners proposing concepts come from all walks of life and throughout the entire Ministry.

We plan to expand that even further by visiting our facilities throughout the organization and sharing available innovation resources through internal communication channels. We also plan to build our online presence and share success stories along the way. Overall, we want everyone working for OSF HealthCare to know they are an important part of helping us achieve our vision to transform health care for the people we serve.

Last Updated: February 1, 2023

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About Author: Kip McCoy

Kip McCoy is the vice president of Innovation Integration for OSF HealthCare. In this role, he oversees the evaluation and building of strategic partnerships internally and externally as well as the identification and development of internal ideas and inventions. Prior to this, Kip was the director of the Office of Innovation Management for OSF Innovation where he worked with OSF Innovation to cultivate and advance internal ideas and inventions. Kip joined OSF in 2016 as part of the Ministry Performance Improvement division, establishing a new rural health care model that brings together internal and external resources and stakeholders for new care coordination efforts. Before coming to OSF, Kip worked as a consultant and also served as the chief operating officer of a non-profit economic development organization. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree and an MBA from Bradley University.

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Categories: Innovation