It seems like one can’t look to the management literature without reading something about innovation. I’ve heard innovation referred to as the life-blood of industry and a core-competency for would-be leaders. It occurs to me that Palliative Care offers at least a few good lessons for would-be innovators.
Focus on the needs of the end-user
It’s amazing how often “innovative” ideas fail because they just don’t have user appeal. Similarly, it’s not uncommon for patients to have poor experiences because their treatment plans just don’t take their needs into account. It’s not to say that the products or treatment plans aren’t worthwhile, but they don’t provide the experience to the user/patient. One of the appeals of Palliative Care is the amount time spent with patients and their families spent in understanding their needs, history and goals. It’s no surprise that patient and family satisfaction with Hospice and Palliative Care is substantially higher than usual care. Palliative Care takes into account the “end-user,” involving them throughout the process from identifying what’s right for them, trialing approaches and eventually coming up with a program that works for them. Similarly, products developed by users, for users seem more successful and also generate a larger “fan-following.”
Look from multiple angles
I once heard a presentation from Phil Newbold, CEO of Memorial Hospital and Health System in South Bend, Indiana, highlighting Apple iPhone/iPod innovations. As someone involved in Palliative Care, this was really no surprise to me because it’s something that Palliative Care has been looking at since the beginning. In the same way that the iPhone broke new ground in appearance, capability, payment structures (via iTunes) and brand development, Palliative Care has recognized the best care accounts for the physical, social, psychological, spiritual and familial needs of patients. Palliative Care could, as a practice, focus only on symptoms, but that would be like an iPhone that’s just a cell-phone…it’s not the same. By taking a holistic approach and addressing patient needs/desires from multiple angles, Palliative Care creates value in multiple arenas simultaneously.
We’ve all heard of brand-loyalty. We see it at play with technology, airlines, vehicles, food and even cleaning products. However, I would argue that one of the things that Palliative Care (and Hospice for that matter) is industry-loyalty. When I tell people that I’m involved with managing Hospice and Palliative Care, there is an instant connection with anyone who has had a family member, friend or loved-one who has used Hospice and Palliative Care services. Their positive experiences lead to a positive view of not only the providers of service, but also the industry as a whole. While this might not be as practical in some highly-competitive industries, an innovative product or series of products give consumers the opportunity to connect with an industry as a whole, particularly as like-competitors come along. Once industry-loyalty is built, product innovation opens doors to new and exciting opportunities. Consider mobile-computing. While the concept of taking the functions of a computer with you had existed for some time before, the laptop opened a gateway to taking everything a desktop could do with you. This built loyalty to the mobile-computing industry. From there, we have innovations like the tablet computer, the Smartphone and, now, cloud computing. All of it starts with building loyalty to the single industry.