How to speed up digital innovation in healthcare

5 September 2022

Developing new digital products and services in healthcare can take a while. And yet, innovation is very important in this sector where budget cuts are a daily occurrence. How do you develop innovative ideas for healthcare quicker, and test them to create solutions that get to see the light of day? In this article, we give you 7 tips to use straight away.

healthcare | iO

1. Go for an organisation-wide approach

Start strong – involve people from every corner of your organisation. Find people from management, marketing and IT but more importantly: healthcare. Relying on a multidisciplinary team will help you detect problems and stimulate innovation. This team can help you develop a vision for digital innovation and set long-term goals. You also need the decision maker (or product owner) to be part of the team, so decisions are made quicker and the product owner is part of the innovation process. But remember: a team like that can boost innovation, but isn’t the only thing carrying it. Because innovation works best in an inclusive culture, not an exclusive club.

2. Get the patient involved

Good innovation starts with the end user. A successful digital product or service matches the world of the patient because that’s what it’s all about. Especially when the idea uproots the current caretaking process, involving the patient early on is vital. Good ways to do this are interviews or customer (patient) journey mapping.

3. Start small

Babysteps hide true success. Complex platforms and solutions are often doomed to fail or can take years before they start (visibly) delivering. By starting small, you can quickly achieve something tangible that leads to change. So, focus on your relatively small parts. For instance, try to focus on a specific healthcare question, treatment or activity.

The advantage of starting small is that you have more room to experiment. And developing a good service is way simpler when the amount of assignments is limited. We can see that in successful mobile apps: most of them only do a few things but they do them well (Tikkie, Buienradar, Banking apps). A fun design method for you to try is the Core Path Method – a model that helps you get to the gist of a solution quickly.

4. Experiment and learn

Successful digital innovations come from experiments and tests – an approach that was born in the Product Design world. Products are developed based on a strong vision, instead of just good old market research. Because when you use the latter, you usually stick to the common routes. Netflix, the iPhone and Uber wouldn’t exist if the creators stuck to obvious needs research. So innovate by experimenting and learning. You can use Google Design Sprints to do this – a method developed by Google Ventures. With Google Design Sprints, you go from an idea to a user-tested, concrete prototype in 1 full-time week.

5. Test, don’t validate

An iterative way of working, based on tests and agility, is the best way to find new insights. Have a look at the interaction between your digital product and the end user. This way, you can find out what works and, more importantly, what doesn’t. By testing early on, you avoid making the wrong choices. By nipping bad choices in the bud immediately, you can save money and time you would’ve otherwise lost developing a product that doesn’t fit the needs of your target audience.

Setting up tests allows the organisation to gain insight. Setting up tests stimulates a learning mindset. ‘Fail’ gets a new meaning: First Attempt In Learning. Usability tests come in many shapes and sizes such as usability labs, remote testing and paper prototyping.

6. Creativity is a skill

Anyone can be creative and come up with new ideas. Sitting around getting frustrated until that eureka moment finally hits isn’t going to help. A clear mind is usually the best way to start when you’re looking for fresh ideas. That’s why Google’s CEO decided that his employees should use a part of a day per week to freewheel: thinking about innovations and testing things, as long as it is related to their work. Google is convinced that innovation mostly happens in those hours of play. There are countless methods to stimulate people to get creative. But creating the right environment and culture for creativity is your best bet.

7. Exude innovation

Show, don't tell! It’s great if you and your colleague are inspiring change, but the most noticeable and effective innovation comes from an entire organisation. So, show people you’re innovating. Not just by introducing cool gadgets and technologies, but by learning. Create a space within your organisation that exudes that. And tell your story online. Show people what you’re doing, what insights you’re gaining, what is going well, and what you’ve learned. Share this internally, but preferably also externally – if your organisation is brave enough.


As you can see, innovation isn’t just for the great creative minds. With the right preparation and a well-thought-out plan, you can also innovate your digital environment!

Auteur: Floor van Riet

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