Innovation in Business Process Management
Innovation is one of the widely discussed issues in performance management (Sahu 2009). The word innovation usually captures the imagination of people because it gives people a sense of possibility (Pratali 2003). Very many definitions of innovation exist. To understand what innovation is, it is useful to consider the common elements in these definitions.
In many cases, innovation refers to the invention of a new process or a new product based on existing ideas (Jones 2008). Innovation usually does not include the development of novel outcomes. If something has not been in existence, the appropriate word to describe it is invention. Innovation on the other hand usually builds on what already exists (Dalal 2007). It combines or advances ideas to ensure that the outcome solves existing problems. In this sense, innovation is a way of using what already exists to solve prevailing problems.
Schumpeter made a distinction between product and process innovation (Omachonu & Einspruch 2010). Product innovation is the process of increasing the value or the functionality of a product by some form of improvement. The motorcycle was an innovation that came from the combination of the bicycle and a motorized engine.
The objective of process innovation is to increase the efficiency of carrying out certain tasks (Omachonu & Einspruch 2010). A good example of process innovation is the work done on the Dubai port to increase the time it takes to handle cargo at the port. Innovators used computers to develop a system that can handle cargo at high speeds and with high accuracy. This is one of the sources of competitive advantage for the Dubai Port.
In young industries, product development is usually very rapid. The product development process usually calls radical changes in product design based on feedback from consumers. This is called radical innovation (Verganti 2009). In established industries, the pace of innovation is slower, or highly targeted. In the automobile industry, innovation is slower, and each one adds only something small to the existing cars. For instance, the transition from carburetor cars to electronic fuel injection cars only dealt with the fuel supply to auto engines. The rest of the components of the vehicles remained the same.
Vincent K. Omachonu and Norman G. Einspruch from the University of Miami wrote an article on healthcare innovation titled, “Innovation in Healthcare Delivery Systems: A Conceptual Framework”. The authors observed that healthcare has benefited a lot from innovation in the last decade (Omachonu & Einspruch 2010). The improvements have resulted in increased standards of care, higher life expectancy, accuracy of diagnosis, and ease of administration of healthcare facilities. The authors also pointed out that the bulk of healthcare innovations arose from information technology (Omachonu & Einspruch 2010).
However, while healthcare has benefitted from innovation, no conceptual framework governs innovation in healthcare settings. Innovation models used in healthcare settings tend to be offshoots from other disciplines. Developments in database management led to the development of database systems for healthcare facilities (Niles 2010). In cases like procurement of medical supplies, the innovations used arose from the use of IT in procurement in other fields. This means that the healthcare sector may not be reaping the full value of innovation because there is little product innovation that originates from healthcare settings.
To solve this problem, the authors developed a framework that can help guide people interested in innovation in the healthcare sector. The conceptual framework developed for healthcare innovation has processes and goals of healthcare that should form the basis of healthcare innovation (Omachonu & Einspruch 2010). Innovation in healthcare should improve how patients are seen, how they are heard, and how their needs are met (Omachonu & Einspruch 2010). The main aspects of care in this regard include quality, cost, safety, efficiency, and outcomes (Omachonu & Einspruch 2010). The processes of healthcare include treatment, diagnosis, prevention, education, research, and outreach.
Contribution of Authors in the Field
The first main contribution of the authors to the field of innovation is that they provided a clear definition of innovation for the healthcare sector. Their definition stated that innovation in healthcare was, “the introduction of a new concept, idea, service, process, or product aimed at improving treatment, diagnosis, education, outreach, prevention, and research, and with the long term goals of improving quality, safety, outcomes, efficiency, and costs.” (Omachonu & Einspruch 2010, p. 5). This definition clarified all the issues that healthcare innovation needed to cover. It provided a strong foundation for developing an innovative culture in healthcare systems.
The second contribution of the authors to innovation in healthcare was that they provided a clarification of the issues in healthcare that should be subject to innovation (Omachonu & Einspruch 2010). These issues included concepts, ideas, services, processes, or products consumed in the context of healthcare provision (Omachonu & Einspruch 2010). The significance of this clarification is that it is wide enough to cover all the aspects that require innovation in the healthcare setting.
The third contribution of the authors was distinguishing the facets of healthcare that can benefit from innovation, from the processes that support these facets (Omachonu & Einspruch 2010). While a healthcare facility can benefit from improvements in efficiency, efficiency in itself is not the goal (Robert 2007). Rather the efficiency should translate into better services. For example, an improvement in the efficiency of handling patients in a healthcare facility should result in a reduction of complications that arise when patients wait for too long to see a doctor.
Application of Innovation
The definition provided by the authors summarized the conceptual framework developed to map out the application of innovation in healthcare settings. These concepts can help my organization in the following ways. First, hospitals need ways of measuring patient waiting time to find ways of reducing the time because of the quality implications (Robert 2007). My hospital needs to find creative ways of cutting back on the current waiting time to increase patient satisfaction. This can be done via incremental innovation.
The second area that can benefit from the framework presented in the article is research. In terms of business process management, the amount of research currently underway in the hospital is not commensurate to the needs of the hospital. In this regard, the hospital can benefit from more research to help it improve on the various performance indices. Research in healthcare settings tends to focus on medical aspects such as epidemiology and pharmacology (Robert 2007). In this regard, research can drive the innovation efforts by identifying and quantifying the problems associated with the operations of the hospital.
The third application of the framework in business process management is the identification and development of opportunities for innovation. The hospital has several functions that can benefit from innovation. Currently, the hospital’s educational programs target the staff already working in the hospital. The hospital uses posters and handbills to educate the public. With some innovation, the hospital can do more in the area of education by using IT to reach a wider audience and to improve the quality of education provided to members of the public.
Dalal, S 2007, Creativity And Innovation Driving Business, Creativity Innovation Books, Mumbai.
Jones, MA 2008, The Innovation Acid Test: Growth Through Design and Differentiation, Triarchy Press, Axminster.
Niles, NJ 2010, Basics of the U.S. Healthcare System, Jones & Bartlett Learning, Sadbury, MA.
Omachonu, VK & Einspruch, NG 2010, ‘Innovation in Healthcare Delivery Systems: A Conceptual Framework’, The Innovation Journal: The Public Sector Innovation Journal, vol 15, no. 1, pp. 1-20.
Pratali, P 2003, ‘Strategic Management of Technological Innovations in the Small to Medium Enterprise’, European Journal of Innovation Management, vol 6, no. 1, pp. 18-31.
Robert, GB 2007, Bringing User Experience to Healthcare Improvement: The Concepts, Methods and Practices of Experience-based Design, Radcliffe Publishing, Oxon.
Sahu, RK 2009, Performance Management System, Excel Books, New Delhi.
Verganti, R 2009, Design-Driven Innovation: Changing the Rules of Competition by Radically Innovating What Things Mean, Harvard Business Publishing, Boston, MA.