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Spreading new ideas in healthcare ‘a struggle’

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Study reveals seven out of eight countries surveyed do not enable innovation effectively.

December 11, 2013 6:05 by

Innovation is critical for tackling global health challenges and, according to experts at the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) in Qatar, more needs to be done to enable the spreading of new ideas and innovations in healthcare, as many countries around the world struggle to do so.

During the two-day summit organised by Qatar Foundation, eight forums were held to discuss the most pressing global healthcare issues, including obesity, mental health, road traffic injury and trauma care, accountable care, antimicrobial resistance, patient engagement, end-of-life care and Big Data.

In her opening speech on the first day, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, announced that the Qatar Genome Project would serve as a road map for the future treatment of personalised medicines.

At a press conference held on the sidelines of the summit, Dr Hanan Al Kuwari, managing director of Hamad Medical Corporation, explained that the Gulf state is undertaking genetic mapping for a large group of Qataris to better understand diseases and illnesses, and create personalised medicines and treatments.

On the second and final day of WISH, the Global Diffusion of Health Innovation report revealed that the spread of new ideas in healthcare requires governments and organisations to set out a clear vision of what can be achieved, establish standards and eliminate old ways of working.

The research identifies the environmental and behavioural factors that speed up the adoption of advances in healthcare. It adds that winning the hearts and minds of front-line staff and patients are important, and that countries were in general good at identifying champions of change, engaging with patients and addressing clinicians’ concerns.

However, seven out of the eight countries surveyed were poor at eliminating old ways of working, adapting innovations to the local context and creating time and space for learning. In Australia, Brazil, England, India, South Africa, Spain and the US, there was a gap between what experts said was important for the dissemination of new ideas and what existed in each country. Only in Qatar, a new and rapidly expanding economy, did the reality match the ratings.

Greg Parston, chief author of the study, says: “The good news is that, regardless of what countries are doing at the national level, there is great consistency among healthcare organisations in terms of the effort they put into identifying champions, engaging with patients and addressing clinicians’ concerns at the front line.”

Professor Lord Darzi, director of the Global Institute of Health Innovation, Imperial College London, and executive chair of WISH, says:  “All health services need to change to cope with ageing populations, the growing burden of chronic disease and economic pressures. We need creative solutions to these problems, but even more importantly we need to learn how to spread them, so they are rapidly taken up. This pioneering research, sponsored by Qatar Foundation, gives us a unique insight into what it is about the healthcare systems in these countries that enables them to successfully ‘diffuse’ innovation, with the aim of inspiring other countries around the world to adopt the best methods and ideas.”

During the summit, the Innovation Plenary Panel discussed new developments in technology, management and medical practice in the context of global healthcare demands. These included an ambulance redesign from the UK, a water purifier from Sweden and a handheld visualisation tool powered by ultrasound technology that enables inspection inside a patient’s body during a physical exam.

Saad Al Muhannadi, president of Qatar Foundation, says that fostering healthcare innovation in Qatar and around the world is a vital part of the foundation’s ambition to become a global centre of excellence in research, education and medicine.

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