Chrystine Zacherau is director for APCO Insight in New York and Washington, D.C., and provides opinion research and analysis in the health care sector.
At an uncertain time in our health care system – marked by rising costs, inadequate access and speculation on the Supreme Court’s decision on the health care reform law – a recent survey reveals opinion leaders overwhelmingly look to “innovation” to solve some of the nation’s toughest health challenges. The poll uncovers a new, multi-dimensional view of innovation. Beyond traditional R&D, innovation is now expected to play a significant role in devising solutions that improve health outcomes, increase access, decrease costs – and beyond.
The NEHI Innovation Barometer* is a benchmark poll designed and conducted by APCO Insight, the opinion research group at APCO Worldwide, on behalf of NEHI and in partnership with Ernst & Young. The 2012 NEHI Innovation Barometer was conducted in March 2012 to gauge opinion leaders’ attitudes regarding innovation’s role in health care. [Complete findings from the survey and its methodology statement are available at www.nehi.net]
As contemporary issues shape the benchmark findings, there was a high demand to address access with innovative thinking. By a two-to-one margin to the next leading issue (lowering cost), poor access to health care was ranked the single most important challenge where innovation needs to step up. And, further, nearly all believe innovation is important because it will not only find solutions to “provide care to those who need it” – but also to “improve the overall health of patients,” “improve the quality of care provided” and “make delivery of health care services more efficient.” What opinion leaders are saying is that today innovation is not just pills and devices, it is also systems and processes.
Americans have grown accustomed to a lightning-fast pace of innovation in other facets of their culture and lives, but compared to everything else the pace of innovation in health care delivery and discovery is relatively glacial. The consumer technology market is fast-changing with new devices and upgrades rolled out at a rapid pace. But health care innovation – classically defined by discovery or systemic change – remains a slow, arduous process.
Consider this: the Medicare program, which provides health care to roughly 50 million Americans, hasn’t changed significantly since 2003. But, since April 2010, the third generation of iPad has been released – and more than 61 million of them have been sold.
The NEHI Innovation Barometer signals to the health care sector that dynamic applications of innovation must address the practical, functional elements of health care. Capitalizing on this holistic view of health care innovation is how the sector can keep stride in a society anxiously expecting new and better.
The public is calling on the health care industry to propose new ideas; to provide solutions. The NEHI Innovation Barometer clearly illustrates that “innovation” is a dynamic, multi-stakeholder process perceived to deliver real benefits: increasing Americans’ access to care, lowering their costs and, of course, improving their health. As a benchmark survey, it will be interesting to track changes in perception about the role of innovation in health care – and if (or when) new nomenclature will emerge to describe “innovation” as opinion leaders see it, and if our health care leaders pick up the pace.
*APCO Insight, the opinion research group at APCO Worldwide, designed and conducted The NEHI Innovation Barometer for NEHI. APCO Worldwide is a member of NEHI.