Here's a talk on innovation in healthcare that I gave this afternoon at Imperial Business School to Professor James Barlow's students. I hope they found it useful.

Innovation in Healthcare

I've been interacting with James for a few years now. He's one of the UK's leading researchers and authorities on telecare and telehealth adoption and implementation. If you want someone to help you understand the current, or likely adoption of such technologies, he's probably your man. He put together some of the evaluation frameworks for the Whole System Demonstrator pilots. He knows his onions about this stuff. 

My talk was a quick fly by of some of the work I've done over the last few years. I wanted to frame it around some initial remarks about the sort of approaches that I think are important. 

Of course, the obvious ones are about understanding people and commencing from a commitment to understanding people not just as one-dimensional users but as multifaceted people. So far, so nothing unusual or unexpected there then. 

I also wanted to make some larger points about what is often missing in the way innovation is being approached in this space. First, an absence of system thinking. Focusing on a user or person is wrong because it implies a single unit of analysis, but although talking about collectives and communities is better, it is still not enough. We need to be really systems based in our thinking. 

A second point is about focusing on what people are trying to achieve. Again, doing this from the perspective of a total system approach is valuable. I hope the transport example I use bears this out. I talked about some design work we did on transportation services where we tried to think not just about moving passengers but the business of moving them and the business of serving them when they have been transported. This work focused on adding value to all parties, and hinted at (but never conclusively proved out) commercial traction in the system. 

Sustaining innovation or change is intimately linked to this point. Unless we understand how money, motives and motivations – the 3 Ms – flow around actors and actants in a system we're doomed to be designing against the flow and to committing ourselves to heaving water uphill in the long term. Healthcare innovation – particular in terms of the telehealth agenda –  has often confronted the 3Ms after the fact. Much effort is now being expended in Europe to understand how we can get past this roadblock. 

The point about innovation not being about invention is a drum I frequently bang. I get a bit bored of shiny new things being created when linking together already existing things would be cheaper, easier, quicker and more effective. I don't always practice what I preach on that front though….

The rest of the talk is, I trust, relatively self-explanatory.

Questions and comments are, of course, welcome. 


  1. Nice talk!
    Greetings from Berlin,

  2. Nice talk!
    Greetings from Berlin,