by Mandeep Butt, MSc and Jim Jorgenson, RPh, MS, FASHP

Change is an amazing driver for business, and we are experiencing a rate of change that is faster than anything mankind has ever seen before. Healthcare cannot afford to lag behind and must become determined to keep pace.

Consider the amount of information that is available to us. As much data is created in two days as was created from the dawn of civilisation to 2003. Translating all of this data into enhanced knowledge, allows our overall knowledge to grow exponentially. The more we know the greater our ability to learn and the faster our knowledge base expands. From this, we create new technology, which then becomes the tool to invent even newer technologies. Technology has advanced more in the last five years than over the previous 5,000 years. Mathematically the exponential curve tracking development moves toward a vertical slope as new developments occur.

In this context, it is not surprising that healthcare is struggling to keep up. Organisations that cannot adapt to this rapid pace of change have a very bleak future.

At its most fundamental level, change is required to help us attain results beyond current levels. The type of change needed, either incremental or transformational, is determined by one major element: will the existing thinking in the area that you need to change continue to serve you in the future?

To be successful in leading healthcare through such rapidly changing times, we must understand and embrace the difference between incremental and transformational change. If your current thinking will work to support your future endeavours, then incremental change will be sufficient to produce the kinds of results desired. To produce successful, incremental change the basic element required is a change in behaviour. Incremental change works quite well and there is certainly nothing wrong with it. Given the desired results, if incremental change methodology will work it is much easier to change behaviour than to change thinking and the least complex approach to any type of change is always best.

However, the problem we are experiencing in healthcare is that these rapidly changing dynamics no longer support an incremental change approach. The tried and true incremental change methodology of the past 20 years will no longer serve us in this new environment. The assumptions and beliefs that were true about healthcare in the past are simply no longer valid for the future and the ability to produce breakthrough results depends on our ability to be creative in our thinking so as to produce innovative results.

Creativity entails the generation of new ideas, while innovation encompasses the ability to recognise a good idea in one place and to adopt or adapt it to your own situation.

Too often in healthcare, we keep our perspective too small and do not look outside of our own organisations or countries for ideas. There are good ideas everywhere that can be adapted, and while it is true that the construct and delivery mechanisms for healthcare differ significantly from country to country, what remains the same are the challenges of patient access, quality of care and cost.

To truly embrace creativity and innovation to improve our healthcare systems we should be thinking globally, and looking for ideas that work to improve access, quality and cost and to learn from them and adopt them. In Marilyn Ferguson’s well known book, The Aquarian Conspiracy, she states that “If you continue to think as you have always thought, you will continue to get what you have always gotten.” Applied to the changing world of healthcare, it becomes obvious that to survive and thrive that to rely on what we have always gotten is a recipe for failure. Successful, transformational change relies on creativity, innovation and new ideas, no matter their country of origin.