Shannon McIntyre

Sometimes I wonder if it’s human nature – and business nature – to be suspicious of others. To be wary of learning from others because of our “uniqueness.”  As businesses, we have a tendency to look at others in our market and point out the things that they do that wouldn’t work for us, instead of finding the points of intersection. This is a sad state of affairs.

The past few weeks have placed me in large gatherings of healthcare and senior living providers in multiple countries, both North American and European. I was surprised at how often people said “we can’t innovate in the same way that [insert innovative company name] has; we are different.”  Sometimes I would point to an interesting case study from a different country and get another version of the same reaction: “But that’s America.” “But that’s Canada.” “But that’s the UK.”

Aging is an international issue, and surprisingly similar across many countries. We are all humans, aren’t we?  And rising healthcare costs are a reality around the world. The hunt for solutions and innovations is a global movement.

I think we’d all benefit from taking off our blinders now and again to absorb what’s happening internationally.  Take the UK, for instance. Their National Health Service (NHS) is one of the world’s largest publicly funded health services, free for any of the 63 million people who reside in the UK, born of the mission that good care should be available for all yet continually facing budgetary squeezes. Sound familiar?

It had better. The NHS is facing all of the same challenges that we face here as individual businesses and care providers – yet on such a massive scale that it almost boggles the mind. They have no option but to get it right.  They cannot fail. So why aren’t we paying attention to what they’re doing? Here are a few examples of innovations currently underway:

·      The NHS is a believer in transforming care delivery with the use of technology. It has launched the 3millionlives program, which states that at least three million UK residents could benefit from the use of telehealth and telecare services. By 2017, they plan to have made this a reality.

·      A group of Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) have been formed to drive innovation through informatics, service improvement, procurement, and research. These organizations are accelerating the use of digital health throughout UK service delivery.

·      The UK is leaving behind the world of primary care trusts (the local organizations that managed care delivery and often faced competing budgetary priorities), and moving into a new era of clinical commissioning groups (new collectives that will design local health service in partnership with local communities). This shift represents a critical shift towards coordination between acute and community services, breaking down silos of care. (Learn more here.)

All of us may sometimes feel like our challenges, and the specific populations we serve, are unique.  And that may sometimes be the case.  But a little bit of curiosity and investigation shows that we can learn a lot from those around us. An indeed, if we really care about those we serve, we have a responsibility to do exactly that.

Shannon McIntyre is the Corporate Communications Director, Intel-GE Care Innovations™.