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Collaborative for Knowledge, Innovation, and Design

Open Innovation in the Health Care Industry

Posted at 1:02 PM July 15, 2016, in News

In an increasingly networked society, those who have traditionally held information close to the vest are finding it more and more difficult to do so. This past spring, Communication Professor Mark Aakhus, with colleagues in Sweden, helped lay the groundwork for improving communication in an industry that affects everyone:alt health organizations.

Serving as guest professor in the Informatics and Media Department at Sweden’s Uppsala University while on sabbatical, Aakhus and Professor Pär Ågerfalk, Information Systems chair at Uppsala, designed and implemented a project whose goal is to explore the potential benefits and ramifications of open innovation in health care.

“It’s about rethinking the relationship between information systems and communication in organizational strategy, and finding the sometimes unlikely places where cooperation and collaboration are beneficial,” Aakhus said. “No one organization contains all the information nowadays; so developing solutions requires collaboration among many.”

While most people take innovation in health care to mean advancements in medical devices and treatments, this project specifically takes aim at information. There is an ocean of it out there — some private, some public — but not much strategy for useful integration, dissemination and utilization of it. That’s where Aakhus hopes to help.

With funding from Swedish innovation agency VINNOVA, Aakhus and his colleagues developed research projects about designing common(s) ground for open innovation in health care. They also delivered a PhD seminar to students from Uppsala and the Swedish Research School of Management and IT. They collaborated with Håkan Ozan of the Swedish ICT Interactive Institute to deliver a workshop on open innovation for community, business and health leaders to identify areas where open innovation in health care could benefit everyone involved.

By opening up the flow of information, Aakhus and his colleagues envision a positive impact. The big challenge is to improve understanding of how communication and information practice connects, for better or worse, the many activities involved in creating health and wellness — not just on doctor-patient interactions and medical science, but also on the entirety of the industry, from everyday business operations to creating a more relevant competitive market, all of which will benefit consumers and the communities in which they live.

“Designing relevant open practice and common ground in health care requires rethinking business models and figuring out the effective information systems and communication practices that go with that … and most importantly how this fits into a local community or region,” Aakhus said. “The goal of our work this spring was about bootstrapping a project around these issues to see if we can’t do something in Sweden, in America and elsewhere.”