As we saw in Week 1, in order for innovation to be successful, you will need support. Support can come from many places and via a number of different stakeholders. In this step we are going to concentrate on local support. Knowledge of local support networks is critical in ensuring the success of the initial phases of your innovation project, by supporting the innovator.
If you are not a Head of Department, this would be your first line of support. You need buy-in from your department in order to pilot your innovation. If there is a cost associated with your intentions, you will also need higher management support, and your Head of Department may assist, but at the very least needs to be aware of your intentions. You may also need the buy-in of local colleagues, for example if you are intending to alter workflow or how a procedure is undertaken. Again, the Head of Department can assist with acquiring this buy-in. Feedback from your Head of Department and colleagues can be very insightful, and may prevent you spending time inappropriately and/or unnecessarily. This feedback can help you to refine your proposal.
Depending upon your proposal, it may be that you need to align yourself with someone more established in research and innovation, such as a clinician or clinical academic. This does not take away from your idea, but may raise the credibility of the proposal both within your institution and externally.
You may wish to get the views of patients; a proposal which seems very obvious to you in your area of work, may have negative implications for patients which you had not considered. Your hospital may have patient advisory groups, and perhaps a patient forum specifically for involvement in research. These groups will be advertised widely around the hospital, particularly at reception desks.
Before any research or innovation can be undertaken, you will need to inform your research and development office (often called the Research Office). The research office will ensure that your innovation conforms to all necessary legal, regulatory and ethical requirements They will assist with management approval, along with providing guidance on evaluation of clinical need (to identify that a service improvement is required) and evaluation of the implementation of the innovation (see Week 3) as well as assistance with the ethical approval process. It is important to recognise that not all innovation will require ethical approval, but all proposals will need to be considered. In larger teaching hospitals, the research office will be a large department. In smaller organisations, this may in fact be a virtual entity.
You may wish to protect the intellectual property (IP) of that innovation. Your hospital will either facilitate this internally, or the research office will link you with external IP specialists.
Outside of the hospital or your own workplace, support is available locally from different organisations. Some we have already alluded to, such as IP specialists and patient groups. Others would include family doctors and other health professionals, and local health offices such as the UK clinical commissioning groups. Local companies may be interested in funding the development of your innovation such as pathology diagnostic companies or medical devices companies. Use your current hospital links to assist you in searching out local companies with appropriate interests.
The Academic Health Science Networks (AHSN) in the UK have the goals of creating innovation, generating wealth and improving health within their region. We will revisit AHSNs in Week 4, when we consider dissemination.
Community of Practice
A community of practice is a group of people who share a common profession and/or function and can be a great source of support. Ask your research office and colleagues about both formal and informal meetings and journal clubs. Communities of Practice have become commonplace within healthcare in an attempt to improve efficiency and spread knowledge and organisational learning. In healthcare, communities of practice provide a means for sharing knowledge to improve clinical practice. They generate and manage new and existing knowledge for members to access so they can innovate, create new ideas and ways of working. Please read this paper for further information.
As you will see there are many examples of communities of practice in healthcare and these can vary from local to regional and national (and even international). For research and innovation Research Gate is an online international community of practice.
In summary, there are a number of different sources of support to aid you in the development of your innovation. We have introduced local areas of support and suggested some wider aspects. In Step 2.4 we will move on to consider sources of financial support.
Use the comments section to suggest a community of practice you think may be appropriate for you. As learners take inspiration from each others comments.