Healthcare Delivery Organization (HDO) Innovation Lifecycle Ontology (ILO) - HDO-ILO

Innovation Challenges

A number of issues at HDOs exist that slow down the innovation process. Here are a few of the major challenges, where an ontology offers the most effective solution:

Misaligned Objectives and Outcomes.

It is important to elaborate on the dire need for ensuring a straight pathway between the innovation’s key objectives and outcomes. Failure to do so, especially at the board level, leads to wasted efforts and resources. Creating an initial clear and decisive plan of action spearheads the momentum in the right direction.

A Yes-man Culture

The prevailing impact of the HDO’s organizational culture, on driving innovation, cannot be overstated. “Dare to be different”, should be the motto at the center of a system that fosters creativity. One where people get the nod, and are applauded when they speak up, and question the norm. The fear of being labeled as different or uncooperative, seen in a consensus-driven culture, sets limitations, and discourages creativity . In an environment where there is always consensus on everything in the presence of an authority might appear good, but rarely gives room for innovation 1.

An unclear definition of innovation

“What is Innovation?” The manner in which the HDO responds to this question, sets the tone for the performance, and output of the system. An expanded definition of innovation is needed, one that also allows room for incremental improvements. The idea that all innovation must be transformative can limit opportunities. Any step which increases overall HDO value should be included in the definition of innovation.

Limiting the evidence sources

Restricting evidence validation to a self-contained system, remains a recurring theme seen among HDOs. The unwillingness to also consider external evidence slows down the innovation process. There is no need to reinvent the wheel every single time.

The misconception that a crisis, such as a pandemic, stops innovation

A crisis acts as an innovation catalyst - not an inhibitor. The current COVID-19 pandemic has proven this on many levels, all around the world. Many organizations struck gold, by stepping on the gas pedal, and ingeniously developing novel solutions to rapidly arising problems. This applied in different types and sizes of organizations, and those that could not take advantage of the extreme levels of stress by innovation were forced to shut down 2. The assumption that unique and challenging circumstances create a barrier, and impede innovation, needs to be erased and replaced with an opportunity mindset.

Lack of focus on the patients’ needs

Patient-driven solutions should always be at the forefront of innovation. Sometimes, leadership gets too absorbed in developing efficient processes, and the patients’ needs are compromised. This lack of patient-centricity churns out results that offer minimal benefits to the patients, and does not address their deepest concerns, which was the main purpose.

Lack of shared leadership

Shared leadership encourages task delegation, based on functional individual competency 3. In the absence of such a specialized delegation approach, a lack of alignment between corporate goals and individual tasks at an organizational level occurs, which creates hurdles to innovation. An interview conducted by HCBiz (a Netspective media partner) with The Clinic - a Cleveland Clinic telehealth spinoff provides ample proof. Here, results indicate that a key reason behind a spin-off is that people who work well in startups, when compared to people who work well in older, more-bureaucratic health systems possess very different skill sets. How can leadership capitalize on this? By placing the right people in place, then isolating them from the existing bureaucracy, thus making it easier to innovate more quickly and efficiently.

The myth that ideation is more important than execution

Take action. No matter how groundbreaking an idea is, it has no value if it is not materialized through action. Drafting a star baseball player to a team gives credibility, but unless a swing ball is taken, preferably a home run, that fresh addition has limited value. While ideation is the first step and an important one, that idea serves no real purpose, without the added effect, brought to life through swift action.

Fear to celebrate failures

According to Michael Guta4, in a report about small business trends 33% of Americans say that fear of failure holds them back from starting a business. The fear of failure resonates largely among innovators. That the project take-off may not go as intended. While it is absolutely important to plan adequately, with clear steps for execution, it is equally important to stay prepared for failures. That resonates with the celebrated statement from Thomas Watson that ‘the fastest way to succeed is to double your failure rate’5. Understanding the take-away messages from these failures, and applying them towards the next project, could prove to be the best launching pad for success.

Lack of knowledge on innovation coaching communities

Many individuals thrive off having an “I can do it all” mindset. This prevents them from seeking assistance, or guidance when faced with an obstruction or challenge. With this mindset, people are prone to fall behind and ultimately fail. For healthcare innovators, innovation communities and incubators offer a catalytic environment, connecting innovators, and stirring up meaningful discussions and collaborations. This leads to connections and associations with industry thought-leaders.


  1. Gray, P. 23 August 2021. Techrepublic. In Leadership: How to avoid creating a team of yes-men ↩︎

  2. Petrie, S., Samwel, D., Peters, P., Hurtig, A.-K., LeBlanc, M., Simpson, H., Young, M 2021. What a Pandemic Has Taught Us About the Potential for Innovation in Rural Health: Commencing an Ethnography in Canada, the United States, Sweden, and Australia. Frontiers In Public Health, 9. ↩︎

  3. Dixon-Woods, M., Amalberti, R., Goodman, S., Bergman, B., & Glasziou, P, 2021. Problems and promises of innovation: why healthcare needs to rethink its love/hate relationship with the new. BMJ Quality and Safety, 20(SUPPL. 1), I47–I51 ↩︎

  4. Guta, M. 16 November 2018. Small Business Trends. 33% of Americans Say Fear of Failure Holds Them Back from Starting a Business ↩︎

  5. Farsom, R., & Keyes, R.August 2002. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved fromThe Failure-Tolerant Leader ↩︎

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