New solutions in the healthcare sector often fail. Early Health Technology Assessment can ensure that health innovation succeeds.
An ageing population and growing demand for healthcare require us to think smarter about the future of our healthcare services. For that reason we have developed Step Up, a method that helps health innovation leaders see potential benefits in the early stages of an innovation project.
Four steps towards innovation
The classic evaluation method, Health Technology Assessment (HTA), measures the value of existing solutions and interventions. This means that there is often a lack of data about effectiveness early in the innovation process, since the solution does not yet exist. The absence of early evaluation can lead to dubious innovations being implemented and used, whilst good innovations never reach patients.
At C3 Center for Connected Care, a center for research-driven innovation (SFI), we have researched how Early Health Technology Assessment can be used to assess benefits throughout the process. This enables innovators to adjust their course and reject ineffective solutions at an early stage.
The research has resulted in Step Up, a publicly available method for health leaders. The method consists of four parts, which step-by-step take an innovation project from an idea to actual change. Each part contains activities that the innovation leader and the rest of the team complete together.
The four parts of Step Up are:
- A solid foundation
To solve the right problem, the team examines all aspects of the problem or challenge so that decisions are knowledge-based.
- A valuable solution
To make the right choice from many opportunities, the team compares solutions and selects the one with the greatest potential impact.
- A common roadmap
To stand united from start to finish, the team agrees on the milestones they need to reach during implementation.
- A steady leader
To facilitate taking new steps, the leader reflects on their role in the process.
As the leader and the team complete the activities, they get step-by-step help in making a change or developing an entirely new service.
Used across the country
Step Up is already part of the curriculum in the MBA program Leadership of Service Development at BI. Students use Step Up to create better healthcare services in their home municipalities, and their experiences confirm the value of Step Up.
"In my department, small changes happen all the time. I clearly see the benefit of using one or two activities to solve them more effectively. What's so great about Step Up is that the method forces you to consider all of the advantages and disadvantages of an innovation, not just the economic ones."
– Anette Borge Erlandsen, former BI student and service manager in Tønsberg municipality
The method is already being used in a number of municipalities and hospitals across the country. So far, we have seen innovators use Step Up to introduce digital treatment and home follow-up related to everything from elderly care to antibiotic treatment.
Step Up is also being used to develop entirely new services with patients, relatives, and employees, or to streamline operational tasks. Its application shows that the method is both flexible and powerful.
"In a tight municipal economy, we can only spend the money once, so we can't afford to make mistakes. Step Up ensures that we go for solutions that work. Municipalities should be required to use Step Up."
– Birgit Pedersen, former BI student and current department head in Larvik municipality
The step-by-step approach in Step Up uncovers whether a solution will work or not, well before implementation. As the figure below shows, the potential value of an innovation will increase with each step taken. Each step is linked to specific activities and decisions, which also helps reduce risk and control costs along the way.
In other words, it pays to think ahead. It saves the time and resources that we cannot afford to waste.