The big challenge in healthcare is how do we evolve more effectively, how can we respond to the rapidly escalating challenges of demand, complexity, equity and cost.  This is not so much a search for a single solution, but rather the development of a process, as each organisation, region and country needs to have healthcare reflect its unique economic and cultural characteristics.  We know that at the epicentre of this search is the opportunity to grab hold of, and leverage, the rapidly expanding information resources that are emerging from the digital transformation of our healthcare system.  This requires a significant change from the past phases of the evolution of health, one that grasps the opportunity for fundamental, information enabled, process change.  The engine that drives this transformation is innovation.

Understanding how to apply the well-developed innovation tools and techniques to the opportunity of information technology fueled process change in healthcare, has been the focus of a four-year program of international study tours led by Cisco.  This year the program took a group of Australian Healthcare CXOs to visit of some the leading healthcare innovation facilities in the US.  The tour met with innovation leaders at:

  • Massachusetts General Healthcare Transformation Lab
  • Pulse@MassChallenge
  • MIT Hacking Health
  • IHI, Johns Hopkins (Selby Innovation Hub and Technology Innovation Centre)
  • UNC

Each of these organisations has been highly successful in delivering on their innovation objectives, although each taking very different paths, reflective of the needs of the organisations that they support.

There were 6 key lessons that we drew from this experience.



It’s about healthcare first…understanding the objective:

Whilst the commercial realities around funding, risk, and return need to be considered it must always be in the context that the primary goal is improving healthcare.


The importance of motivation…creating healthcare’s innovation model from within:

The participants in healthcare often have strong social motivations and ensuring that these are recognised and supported is an important part of a successful healthcare innovation process.


(Actual) necessity is the mother of invention…finding the problem:

Innovation is often driven out of systems in stress with strong motivators for change. So, processes which seek out the real pain points with a health care system allow innovation resources to be focused where they will be most successful.


Systems, perspectives and the picture of the whole…leveraging multiple perspectives and disciplines:

Healthcare is complex and ideas are often found at the intersection between both clinical and operational domains. Successful innovation is supported by bringing together diverse communities across the healthcare space and focusing them on a common need.


Starting from where we are…but with vision and process:

Innovation does not just happen. To be successful it needs to be formed and constantly curated.  Organisations need explicit innovation plans and processes that cultivate expressive ideation and capture those opportunities in a way the can generate productive outcomes


Smoothing the stilted marriage of technology and process innovation:

Healthcare has an extensive background in the application of sophisticated process change techniques, such as Lean and 6 Sigma to drive care improvement. However, these clinical communities are often poorly coupled with technology innovation and can have difficulty in leveraging an information technology enabled future.

Check out the full report to understand the details within each of these lessons and engage further in the health Innovation community through the Cisco Agile Hospital Website.


Brendan Lovelock

Health Practice Lead

Cisco Australia