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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Health Innovation – the importance of measurement

Dr. Anne Snowdon, Professor and Chair, International Centre for Health Innovation, Richard Ivey School of Business

Each province and territory in Canada faces unique challenges as they struggle to meet growing demands for health services and escalating costs of health care. To ensure sustainability, we need to be innovative, meaning we must re-design health services to achieve greater quality and be more effective. But we must do more than just innovate - we need to measure the impact of innovation at the health system level, and disseminate our findings widely.

While no single jurisdiction has completely redesigned their health system to achieve sustainability, some have made progress through innovative practices to improve the quality of care and health outcomes. The question for health care leaders is: how do we learn from the success and failures of others to adequately address challenges within our own health systems?

Despite changes in health systems in Canada and around the world, we have limited evidence of the impact of these changes from a health outcomes or cost effectiveness perspective. Strategies for innovation must be supported by empirical evidence. In short, we have to measure innovation impact to understand how it is working and how we can build on success. Evidence-based innovation of this kind would generate best practices that could be shared across the country and around the world through dynamic knowledge translation models - a virtual network of partners working together and sharing evidence so that other countries can learn from, adopt or adapt proven solutions for their own health systems.

At the same time, we must also develop a performance management system that examines and captures the impact of innovation adoption on both system performance and population health across the continuum of care.

In Canada, each province and territory across the country is a living laboratory ripe with the potential for innovative best practices. For example, innovation to support primary care and integration is emerging independently in three Canadian provinces: Ontario, Quebec and Alberta. So far, there has been almost no measurement of the impact of these innovative primary care models. The resulting lack of knowledge transfer between these jurisdictions has meant missed opportunities for sharing lessons learned that could benefit all health systems across the country.

Without measurement of the impact of innovation, there continue to be missed opportunities for sharing lessons learned that could benefit other jurisdictions, not only within Canada, but internationally. Therefore it is important that we continue to build platforms for sharing in order to drive system innovation to support sustainability.

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