Low-tech innovation (2/2) – Don’t underestimate the obvious

Don’t underestimate the obvious

Innovation is nothing more than the successful implementation of a new idea. Once you understand this, it’s not that hard to imagine ways to improve your organisation. You can use literally everything and everyone to change your operation for the better.

A lot of times we are so focused on the future and the latest technology, that we tend to forget the obvious. The simple solutions. Of course, you don’t want to be overtaken by time, but we should not underestimate the power of a few low-tech (or non-tech) ideas.

Listen to your audience

One of the big pioneers in healthcare in the Netherlands is Lucien Engelen. He is the director and co-founder of the Radboud REshape Center, the innovation lab of the Radboud University Medical Centre. Although Lucien is a tech-nerd and huge ambassador of the latest technology, he also endorses the power of low-tech ideas and social innovation.

A few years ago Lucien introduced the Chief Listening Officer, someone who just listens to the needs and experiences of patients. This way, patients can talk to someone – a highly valued social aspect that is often missing in time-pressured environments. Afterwards, the collected stories are used to improve the health policy.

The introduction the Chief Listening Officer led to a magnification of customer satisfaction. Patients feel taken seriously and give an average rating of an 8.2/10. It also resulted in a new project called AYA4. A simple online platform where young people with cancer can meet and exchange stories.

It can be that simple

Until a few years ago, spending time in a hospital bed was not completely without a risk. Staying in a hospital environment could cause you to end up with a serious infection. Some of these infections could even be life-threatening. Peter Pronovost, an anesthesiologist and critical care physician, came up with an absurdly simple method to prevent these infections.

In a study of 100 Michigan hospitals, he found that 30 percent of the time surgical teams skipped one of five essential steps. To prevent these unnecessary mistakes he introduced a checklist protocol, containing five essential steps like; “Wear a sterile mask, hat, gown and gloves.” and “Wash your hands with soap.”

Silly as it may sound, Peter’s idea worked. During the first 18 months of its introduction in the State of Michigan, his checklist saved an estimate of 1500 lives and $100 million.

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