Innovation in Healthcare

The need for innovation

Prior to joining the University of Oregon MBA, I spent four years working for a medical clinic. One recurring problem I heard was generalized dissatisfaction with the healthcare system. Everyone felt the system was failing them. I heard it from all angles: patients, providers, and administrative staff.

Healthcare has increasing challenges to improve care access and quality to a growing population while simultaneously lowering costs and waste. To address these challenges, innovation is necessary. Innovation has the potential to create change in areas such as disease prevention, precision care, increase efficiency, organization improvement, and technology use. Despite its apparent need, the healthcare industry is behind in innovation and funding innovation.

Encouraging innovation

While innovation isn’t currently thriving in healthcare, I have optimism that it can with the right support. We are surrounded by individuals who have potential solutions. The next step is supporting these ideas and building them up for execution. This process requires collaboration and institutional support.

“Innovation is a team sport”; it does not happen in isolation. Healthcare companies need to create space for the key stakeholders including patients, providers, facilities, and administration to discuss productively. An example of this concept in action is Lyme Innovation, an organization who sponsor a series of cross-disciplinary hack-a-thons to solve issues related to Lyme disease.

Sustaining innovation

Sustainability, in terms of long term preservation, is necessary when developing innovative solutions so that we don’t need to solve the same problems repeatedly. Healthcare systems are increasingly complex and for a solution to be effective, it needs to fit the organization. A study showed that to have innovation success, processes need to demonstrate adaptability, added value, and measurability. The measurability is key to defending why innovative processes are valuable and using that to justify getting essential resources (including funding).

Maintaining innovation also requires continuous effort and infrastructure. To support this many organizations are creating specific teams to address innovation problems. For example, Providence health created a Health Strategy and Innovation group consisting of three distinct teams (Providence Ventures, Digital Innovation Group, and Consumer Innovation group) that work in tandem to fund, trial, and integrate innovative health processes and technologies.

Finally, as with any project the company culture needs to support innovative improvement. With the current frustration levels in healthcare, I think everyone is ready for solutions. If healthcare companies are ready to improve, the community will be ready to improve with them.


Written by Tabit Xthona

Tabit is a UO MBA student with the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. Prior to joining the MBA she worked for a private medical clinic running pharmaceutical trials. Through her MBA, Tabit wants to explore how healthcare can reduce its environmental impact while improving care. Following graduation, Tabit plans to pursue a position with a healthcare organization that shares her passion for efficient and people focuses approaches to problems in the industry.