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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Health Innovation: A National Imperative

Gabriela Prada, Director, Health Innovation, Policy and Evaluation at The Conference Board of Canada

‘Innovation’ has become a buzz word and a priority for governments and health care systems and organizations. However, innovation is not an easy concept to grasp. Innovation is not about creating a new device or drug, or a new process or idea. Innovation is about putting these new ideas, processes, or products into practice and extracting value from them. Therefore, innovation takes place only when value is created, which can take many years after inventing the products or processes.

Why does innovation matter? At the health and health-care system levels, innovation can improve the quality and efficiency of health services, thus contributing to improved population health (social value). For example, innovation can decrease waiting times, length of hospital stays, morbidity, and mortality. In addition to these obvious social benefits, innovation can also contribute to the affordability of health and health care services (economic value), a major challenge in our health-care systems.

But we believe that the benefits of greater innovation in health go well beyond health and health care systems. Health care systems do not exist on their own, disconnected from the rest of the economy. On the contrary, as one of the biggest recipients of public revenues, health care plays an integral role in national economic performance. The health care sector represented 10.1 per cent of the national GDP in 2011 and supported 2.1 million jobs and while most people are generally aware of the costs of health care, the argument for its economic benefits is rarely made. Innovation in health and health care systems can directly and indirectly improve Canada’s productivity and economy. For example, eliminating long waits to access health care services and/or redesigning health and health care services to lead to optimal health outcomes can avoid work-time productivity losses that cost billions to our economy. Furthermore, Canada has a strong health and life sciences industry sector, which despite tremendous global opportunities, has captured only a small share of this global market. Concerted efforts to increase Canada’s share of this global market could result in significant economic development and job creation.

The Health Innovation, Policy and Evaluation team at The Conference Board of Canada is committed to raise awareness of the main issues and opportunities linked to greater innovation in Canada’s health and health care systems. Through our Centre for the Advancement of Health Innovations and our Council for Innovation Procurement in Health Care we are conducting and facilitating independent, objective, leading-edge policy research and dialogue to foster systemic innovation in health and health care in Canada. We are teaming up with government, academia, health-care leaders, and industry, to examine the various elements of Canada’s health innovation system, to identify best practices, and to articulate sound policy recommendations to improve our health innovation performance. We believe that if Canada embraces health science, technology, and innovation as national imperatives, Canadians will have not only better health and health care systems, but also a brighter future.

We have examined timely and relevant health innovation issues including the value of conducting and engaging in medical research, the opportunities and benefits of engaging citizens in health innovation processes, and the potential of using procurement as a tool to encourage and support innovation. Our current project focuses on measuring innovation readiness of health care organizations. Our 2012 Health Innovation Survey, which was responded by over 80 acute, long-term, and home care organizations across Canada, is quantifying health innovation performance; identifying the factors that contribute to health innovation; and determining benchmarks from which improvements could be assessed over time. Stay tuned for more on this project!

Interested in knowing more about us? Please visit our web site where you’ll find more information about who we are and what we do as well as links to our blogs. You can also follow us on Twitter or through LinkedIn. We would love to hear from you!

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