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Clinician Connect

Adopting a pipeline of innovation

By Dr Jean-Frederic Levesque

27 Apr 2021 Reading time approximately


Bringing new opportunities to light means adopting and managing a pipeline of innovation.

Innovations very often start as small, local programs in wards or hospitals. While often impactful at a local level, they will require a process of gradual design and testing to successfully transition from grassroots innovation to large scale implementation.

At different stages of that process, some innovations are identified to have a greater likelihood of impact and transformation of the system. Others may not be feasible in settings outside the environment where they were first developed. This is why ongoing design and evaluation is important throughout the pipeline process.

Supporting the progression of innovations through this pipeline requires a fine mix of planned activities and emergent opportunities – it is not a purely planned process, nor something that happens without some planning. There are common elements in this pipeline, and the Agency for Clinical Innovation (ACI) invests in support teams that wrap around the clinical and consumer leaders who lead the design and trialling of these initiatives.

Pipeline of innovation

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Bringing together the right expertise to support the innovation process requires both planned activities and emergent opportunities, and so remaining responsive and maintaining agility throughout the process is key.

We need to ensure that we have the resources to assess the current extent of knowledge and evidence to support an understanding of the main problems that the innovations will address and what will work to solve them.

We also need to ensure that we evaluate quickly and at the right times, for the purpose of identifying promising innovations. Innovation is often non-linear, so it is important to create feedback loops along the pipeline to help re-orient or re-prioritise activities. For example, we may need to start more than one pilot to identify a potential project to spread and scale across the health system.

Our teams also have expertise to support the entire pipeline – producing evidence, supporting engagement, developing effective communication and advising on change management. We work in partnership with the Ministry of Health, our fellow NSW Health pillars, local health districts, community and non-government organisations and other key stakeholders.

An example of a successful innovation now being scaled is the NSW Telestroke Service, which began with clinicians in the ACI’s Stroke Network working with Mid North Coast and Hunter New England local health districts to pilot a telestroke program. This work then spread to another district as we learnt about the impact of another context on the early effectiveness seen in the pilot. We partnered with eHealth NSW and the Ministry of Health to structure a state-based approach to gradually scale in waves of implementation over three years.

I am very proud of the achievements of this program, which has seen a $21.7 million investment and is being rolled out to 23 sites across NSW over three years. The initiative is changing the lives of people living in regional and rural communities, providing access to life-saving, clot-busting treatments they would not otherwise have.

The leadership provided by clinicians has been critical to achieving this scale. You can read more about this in the editorial from Professor Ken Butcher, the program’s clinical lead.

ACI’s clinical networks and graduates of the School of Healthcare Redesign are all potential sources for innovations.

Also in this issue of Clinician Connect, you can read about:

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