Speeding Up Adoption of Health Care Innovations

    • October 12, 2009

Why does it take an average of 17 years for the nation’s health care system to widely adopt some of the most promising discoveries in health care, and how can the country implement innovations more quickly?

Those were the questions posed at a recent forum co-hosted by the Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative (INQRI), a program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), that aims to better understand how nurses can improve patient care, and the Donaghue Foundation, a Connecticut-based organization that funds medical research.

Speakers and participants at the forum, held in July at the RWJF headquarters in Princeton, N.J., did not settle on a single answer to the question but began a conversation around strategies to hasten adoption of health care innovations.

“Implementing what we already know to be effective to make health improvements and doing so on a scale to benefit many people are the two of the biggest challenges to creating practical benefit through research,” said Lynne Garner, Ph.D., president and trustee of the Donaghue Foundation. “Through the forum, organizations interested in tackling this challenge began to explore ways to work together toward this goal.”

During the program, participants identified facilitators and barriers to research translation; explored the role they can play in speeding up adoption of discoveries; and sought out opportunities to collaborate with each other. They discussed initiatives in the areas of communications, translation, integration and dissemination of proven models.

Investments Can Shrink the Gap Between Discovery and Implementation

Funders may be disinclined to invest in these often expensive and time-consuming types of investments, especially in an economic climate in which philanthropies are seeing shrinking budgets. But investments in these areas can pay off because they can shorten the gap between discovery and implementation.

A small committee of forum participants plans to draft a set of recommendations for those interested in pursuing ways to spur widespread implementation of innovations.

Forum speakers included Elizabeth Bradley, Ph.D., a professor of public health at Yale University, who addressed strategies to diffuse new ideas; Lucas Held, communications director at the Wallace Foundation, who spoke about public relations initiatives; and Charles Cutler, M.D., a health care consultant who was formerly the chief medical director of national accounts at Aetna. He gave a speech that broadly addressed barriers and opportunities for health care foundations seeking to implement innovations.

Lori Melichar, Ph.D., RWJF director for the INQRI program, led a panel discussion featuring INQRI researchers Linda Costa, Ph.D., R.N., and Jill Marsteller, Ph.D., M.P.P., of Johns Hopkins University and Linda Flynn, Ph.D., R.N., B.C., of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and of the University of Maryland. They discussed strategies designed to ease communication across the continuum of care, reduce medical errors and improve patient safety.

Participating organizations included the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the California HealthCare Foundation, the Commonwealth Fund, the Fannie E. Rippel Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Grantmakers in Health, Health Research Alliance, the John A. Hartford Foundation, the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, the VA Center for Implementation Practice and Research Support, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.