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Empowered staff the key to sector innovation: report

Health and aged care organisations are lagging behind when it comes to innovation and many are doing less in the area than they think they are, new analysis shows.

The CommBank analysis looked at the current and planned initiatives of 146 businesses within the broad healthcare sector including aged care with an annual turnover of over $500,000 and at least two employees.

It found that three-quarters of health and aged care businesses claimed to be innovating (73 per cent) but only 31 per cent actually were when tested against the international standard.

The other 42 per cent were making changes, which while considered valuable were business improvements rather than innovations, while the remaining 27 per cent were either not innovating or had abandoned their plans.

The standard was developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and defines innovation as introducing something new or making a significant improvement in either business processes, products and services, organisational structure or marketing practices.

Innovation among health and aged care organisations is below the national average of 44 per cent, but the significant financial return experienced by many innovative health and aged care businesses is a compelling reason for businesses to innovate, the report found.

Core elements of innovation

The report also measured 15 key drivers of innovation across management capabilities and entrepreneurial behaviours to create an innovation index.

It found healthcare businesses scored 10.6 on average, which classified the industry as improving and on a positive foundation to move up but significantly lower than the national average across all industries (24.0) and the overall benchmark for genuine innovation (25.0).

The top three common characteristics across the 15 components shared by innovative health and aged care businesses are:

  • encouraging employees to ask questions that challenge the current way of doing things (46 per cent)
  • employing staff that are not afraid to take risks and fail (32 per cent) and
  • expecting staff to offer creative ideas (31 per cent).

Aged care innovator

One organisation found to be innovating is care provider Thomas Holt, which was identified in the report as “setting the standard for the Australian aged care industry” in keeping pace with the significant changes facing the industry.

Thomas Holt is leveraging the latest in research and development, technology and using partnerships to ensure innovation remains a key driver of its organisational objectives, the report said.

Alexandra Zammit

Thomas Holt CEO Alexandra Zammitt said the potential for technology to improve service delivery led the organisation to rethink its operating model and align it with the changing expectations of clients.

“This is where technology can make the biggest impact, because it frees up our staff to focus on the client. No matter how good robotics or artificial intelligence is, it won’t replace one-on-one care,” Ms Zammitt said.

Testing new ideas and a “fail fast” approach to implementation was at the core of innovation, she said.

“If you don’t fail fast and fail often, as well as consult with clients, staff and stakeholders along the way, you will be static – and likely you won’t remain sustainable over the long term.”

See AAA‘s previous coverage on Thomas Holt’s technology upgrade here

Read the report: CommBank Business Insights Report: Healthcare

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3 Responses to Empowered staff the key to sector innovation: report

  1. Lindsay Tighe July 5, 2017 at 2:30 pm #

    It is interesting to note that the top three common characteristics across the 15 components shared by innovative health and aged care can all be present in an organisation if it has really good managers and leaders that choose to build trust and empower their teams. Staff will only offer up ideas and be prepared to take risks if their workplace culture enables them to do so.
    It would be great if managers asked themselves what they are doing to enable:
    # employees to ask questions that challenge the current way of doing things
    # staff to take risks and fail
    # staff to offer creative ideas.
    In my experience most staff want to do these things but their workplace culture (often the line manager) prohibits them from doing so.

  2. Pat McGovern July 5, 2017 at 8:08 pm #

    So, technology equals innovation?

    I’m sorry, but there’s more to it than buying a few iPads, installing Skype and hooking up Foxtel.

    I’m quite sure the care staff that have to work alone on each floor and the one RN to cover 150 residents at night would disagree.

    Have a good look at your actual care standards and then tell me how innovative you are

  3. Max July 7, 2017 at 4:29 pm #

    The culture of innovation does not flourish in organisations (led by tired leadership) immersed deep in task oriented, command and control culture (mistakenly read as culture of compliance,quality & control) of agedcare that it is today.

    Fresh leaders will eventually emerge and will lead, change usually comes from the edges and moves to the centre of an industry. It will be the same for Agedcare.

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