What challenges does Healthcare face in the 21st century and what are the opportunities healthcare leaders can grasp? Professor James Barlow, a leading expert on healthcare innovation discusses ahead of the imminent launch of our Executive Education dedicated healthcare programme at Imperial College Business School.

The international healthcare landscape has changed drastically over the last decade. How would you explain the disruptions facing the sector?
In the developed countries, healthcare systems are being squeezed by tight budgets and an expanding elderly population. The way we deliver healthcare has to evolve accordingly. That requires new thinking – in short, innovation.

There’s no shortage of new science and new drugs and technology, but it’s often hard to get these innovations taken up by healthcare providers. Growing cutbacks make managers and policy makers more conservative and unwilling to try new ideas as they fear that ‘rocking the boat’ may damage their reputations or have detrimental financial implications. Healthcare technology innovations are odd because they often result in increased expenditure since they allow us to do more – to treat more people or diseases which couldn’t be treated before. Innovations also often have unpredictable knock-on effects across different parts of the health system. So for innovators, it can be very frustrating. They have the good ideas, but convincing those people responsible for adopting them is hard.

Developing countries face a different set of innovation challenges. These partly relate to the need to bring decent health services to populations that currently don’t have them, but to do this in a context where resources and infrastructure are often highly constrained. But there’s some really interesting innovation coming out of countries like India, where new technological and business model innovations are helping to increase access to healthcare. Some of these have important lessons for the UK and other developed countries.

And, of course, healthcare professionals do not just have political, societal or organizational challenges to deal with…
There are mounting problems across the globe: rising incidence of chronic disease in developing countries; concern about antibiotic resistance; and a lack of new drugs to tackle this because of the diminishing returns for research by pharmaceutical businesses. All these form a backdrop to the global health innovation challenge.

So how do we start to innovate as healthcare professionals, whether we are in medtech, insurance, government or the delivery of frontline services?
Mid-level managers in healthcare need exposure to the insights that can help them tackle these challenges. There is a lot of knowledge about healthcare innovation – what works, in what circumstances, what can be done to overcome barriers to adoption and so on. Getting this across to managers and policy makers is critical if we are going to empower those on the ground who are trying to implement solutions.

Forward-looking senior management needs to see the global trends and implications. The key question is “how can healthcare can start to respond to the emerging challenges in an agile way and what are the best strategies to create a sustainable 21st century healthcare ecosystem?”

Policy makers need to find new approaches to planning smarter, sustainable approaches to healthcare, built around patient self-management and community involvement.

What is the Imperial Executive Education perspective?
We understand the triggers and concerns of those responsible for the management, delivery and financial planning of healthcare delivery. And being located at Imperial College Business School, unlike most Executive Education programmes, we also have a deep understanding of technical, engineering and ICT developments, and connections with the researcher and companies creating the new technological innovations. So those looking to develop medtech or explore its opportunities can uniquely benefit from an Imperial Executive Education.

We regularly engage with a wide range of healthcare commentators, practitioners and companies from the UK and elsewhere. They indicate that there is still a poor understanding of innovation in healthcare. It’s talked about but not practiced – there’s a perception of the real problems but no real experience in tackling them.

A particular advantage of our unique environment is discovering how to embed learning into everyday practice. Immersive sessions, the Impact Lab and mentored exercises allow participants to explore, experiment and transform their organization.

An Imperial Executive Education can offer vital insight and direction for those tasked with decision making in this increasingly challenging field.

This article is part of a series of short interviews with the global thought-leaders guiding participants on the immersive short executive education programmes at Imperial College Business School.

This unique Healthcare programme, that blends science, technology and the effectiveness of a business focus, can inspire those working in Insurance, Government, MedTech or Healthcare Management with start dates in June 2016.

More detail and the full brochure can be found here – imperial.ac.uk/business-school/executive-education/healthcare/

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