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Transforming Healthcare Through Innovation and Entrepreneurship

January 18, 2022


Dr Claudine Kearney explores the leadership of innovation and entrepreneurship in healthcare.

Creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship are important concepts and critical for the global advancement of healthcare. Within healthcare it is important to recognize that creativity is the first step for innovation, which can emerge anywhere and at any level within the organization. Innovation is a necessity for healthcare now and in the future particularly with the growing demand on the healthcare system driven by an aging population, an increasing prevalence of chronic disease and illnesses, and changes in patient needs with requirements for more personalized patient care. Scientific and technological advances are at the centre of healthcare innovation. Therefore leaders of healthcare organizations need to develop a climate that supports and empowers individuals and teams to be creative and innovative and in doing so nurture the entrepreneurial spirit and apply core business principles to bring new ideas into commercially viable medical innovations that will change the world of healthcare.

Over the last number of decades the field of healthcare has experienced significant innovations developed to enhance life expectancy and quality of life. The development of innovation in healthcare is a response to the critical needs of patients that can emerge over time or as a result of certain unprecedented circumstances that quickly emerge and need to be addressed urgently. This can be a result of the aging population and growing needs to address certain chronic diseases or the unprecedented global pandemic of Covid-19. Understanding innovation and the different types of innovation and the opportunities for innovation is significant for the field of healthcare. Healthcare organizations that support and nurture the innovative capability of their individuals and engage in open innovation can lead to the effective process of innovation that will result in new product, services, processes, technologies and delivery methods that generate patient value and enhance the healthcare system. It is the effective link between scientific and technological advances and meeting the diverse needs of stakeholders that leads to successful innovations that generate value in healthcare.

Leadership is the role of all healthcare professionals

Leadership is no longer focused on formal senior positions, but the role of all healthcare professionals throughout the healthcare organization. Traditional hierarchical practices have more recently given way to recognize leaders as part of a group and leadership as a more interactive process. Leadership style and practices have a significant impact on healthcare organisations and their engagement in innovation and entrepreneurship. Therefore, it is paramount to ensure the right leadership practices that will improve patient experience and care; reduce medical errors, infection and mortality; increase staff retention and morale; decrease staff turnover, absenteeism, stress and burnout. On this premise the integration of entrepreneurship and leadership to achieve entrepreneurial leadership can make a major contribution to the field of healthcare.

The challenge facing many healthcare organizations in today’s complex and unprecedented environment is how to effectively develop creativity and innovation among individuals and teams. Healthcare organizations need to meet the demands of a diverse group of stakeholders but most importantly address patient needs. The ability of the organization to address the daily healthcare needs, while at the same time having a futuristic approach to innovation, is challenging yet imperative. Innovation and entrepreneurship requires people. Therefore healthcare organizations need to utilize the competencies and creativity of their people to work together to identify opportunities for the betterment of healthcare. This requires leadership that drives innovation and entrepreneurship, and facilitates continuous engagement, collaboration, teamwork and effective communication.

To transform healthcare, innovation and entrepreneurship needs
to start with patient needs at the forefront

In the 21st Century, women represent 70 percent of the healthcare workforce, yet globally leadership roles particularly at the more senior level continues to be highly skewed towards men. This continuous underrepresentation of women in leadership roles in the healthcare sector is a global norm that needs to change. Women in innovation and entrepreneurship in healthcare are also experiencing gender bias. Healthcare organizations are not adequately addressing the disparity of gender equality in leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship. To transform healthcare, innovation and entrepreneurship needs to start with patient needs at the forefront. This can be best achieved when there is supportive leadership and equal opportunities for all qualified healthcare professionals to hold leadership roles and engage in the innovation process utilizing competencies and experiences and addressing fundamental gaps and defficiencies in healthcare delivery.

Innovations in healthcare products, assessment procedures, diagnoses, treatments,  and delivery of care have been significantly developed in recent decades. Such innovations increase patient quality of life and life expectancy and enhance the delivery of high quality and safe care for all patients. The development of innovations in healthcare also increases efficiency, effectiveness, accessibility and reduces medical errors and costs. The growing emphasis on the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship to healthcare should encourage leaders in healthcare organizations to support and facilitate more innovative ways to generate greater patient value into the future. Innovation and entrepreneurship in healthcare needs to have a future oriented mindset that understands ‘one size does not fit all’. A more personalized approach is needed, through effective interaction between healthcare professionals, stakeholders and other key experts internally and externally to develop future innovations that will further enhance healthcare and lead the world to better health.

Healthcare needs creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship, courage, resilience, passion, compassion and strong leadership. Be the healthcare leader that drives innovation and entrepreneurship, has a vision that accomplishes the imaginable, and who makes it happen – and keep it happening!

Claudine Kearney is Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy, Graduate School of Healthcare Management, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ireland

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Ageing’s Impacts Already Are Here: The Effects of Falling Working Age Populations on Business

October 20, 2021


Alfred Marcus and Mazhar Islam examine how demographic changes introduce new challenges for businesses.

The impacts on countries that have falling working-age populations – Japan, Germany, Russia, Taiwan, the US and China – are profound. First, a shortage of labour is leading to higher pay, which has resulted in an uptick in inflation. Second, economic growth, which arises from having more workers and their being more productive, has been slowing and it is likely to continue to slow. Countries with fewer workers have to increase their productivity rapidly, or else they face diminishing growth. At best, they can maintain the same level of economic activity. However, it will be hard for ageing countries to increase this level. Third, demand will fall.

These reflections about what will happen next are not speculations. Businesses must recognize that a decline in working-age adults means fewer taxpayers and, with fewer taxpayers, the stress on social security and welfare systems of countries that have fewer workers grows. As populations contract, the challenge for governments is to find sufficient revenue to fund programs that look after the elderly, while continuing to nourish the young. Governments must rely on their populations being replenished by immigration or their economies being transformed by technological advances. Without these, the decline in family size – families being neither large nor stable enough – presents a daunting challenge, one that no government has yet to master fully.

Already in the US the number of jobs is exceeding the number of job seekers, a development that makes perfect sense as the number of elderly rises and immigration is curtailed. Without increases in productivity, or delays in the age of retirement, businesses have to recognize that countries with fewer workers are not likely to grow rapidly. Were there to be another economic shock like the great recession of 2007–08 or some other unexpected event like the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be very difficult for countries with declining workforces to return to a normal level of growth.

The positive side of reduced growth in ageing countries is less negative environmental impact. Reduced growth boosts efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions, but this reduction may be accompanied by declines in food, water, and energy consumption, and lower living standards. Therefore, technological innovation that is good for the planet and good for the corporate bottom line should be a high priority that is pursued vigorously by all companies. Companies also need to closely collaborate with government and policymakers in ageing countries so that the governments undertake policies that promote such technological innovation.

Immigration is the sensible way to replenish lagging working-age populations. Businesses should become major supporters of pro-immigration policies. However, until now, immigration at the scale needed to make a significant dent in the problem has been politically unfeasible in almost all countries. The rise of nationalist leaders around the world and their ascent to power is harming the ability of the world to adjust to the challenge of ageing. Businesses must do all they can to oppose these movements and to put a stop to the policies they represent. It is in the self-interest of business to do so.

The alternative, to persuade citizens to have more babies, or to incentivize them with monetary rewards, is a far slower and less certain way to approach the problem of ageing. Typically, most of the subsidies offered to people to have more children are absorbed by people who would have had such children without the subsidy. Experience in Europe with longer parental leaves as a way to encourage increased births suggests that such policies do not impact birth rates significantly. However, such benefits do lead to better parenting and positive societal benefits. Subsidized childcare does seem to help, though the effects are not sufficient for countries to move their fertility rates back to the replacement level which would guarantee population stability.

Therefore, businesses should support these subsidies. They should support them because they signal to women that they can have families and at the same time fully pursue their careers without impairing either quest to any great extent. Women need to feel that they can participate fully in the workforce. Their participation has never been needed as much as now, especially in ageing societies.

There are several other implications for management about how it should prepare for a situation in countries where the size of the working class is shrinking:

  • Salaries and benefits might have to be increased to retain quality human capital which might
    be in great demand in these societies.
  • Human resource practices must be implemented that attract employees who have traditionally
    remained outside the workforce.
  • It must be recognized that demand patterns will be far different in ageing societies.
    Marketing and product development will change.

Management must devise strategies that take advantage of the world’s demographic diversity. It cannot rely solely on aging societies as their vitality will inevitably diminish to some degree. As well as making aggressive attempts to innovate technologically, businesses must never let up in their strong support for liberal immigration policies.

Demography and the Global Business Environment by Alfred A. Marcus and Mazhar Islam is out now.

Alfred A. Marcus is Edson Spencer Professor of Strategy and Technology Leadership, Carlson School of Management and the Technological Leadership Institute, College of Science and Engineering, University of Minnesota. Mazhar Islam is Assistant Professor of Management and the Chase Distinguished Professor of International Business, College of Business, Loyola University New Orleans, US

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