Innovative thinking to control healthcare-associated infections
On any given day, it’s estimated that 1 in 25 hospital patients in the U.S. has at least one healthcare-associated infection (HAI), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That includes pneumonia; gastrointestinal illness; or infections of the urinary tract, bloodstream or surgical site.
Sadly, despite enormous resources aimed at preventing the problem, HAIs continue to result in infection and even death. Moreover, HAIs cost the U.S. healthcare system an estimated $35 billion annually, making it one of the biggest challenges facing hospital chief executive officers. Clearly, a new way of thinking about HAIs is needed.
Finding new, innovative ways to address a confounding problem like this is difficult, especially if hospitals continue to seek solutions using outdated, “think-outside-the-box” methods like brainstorming. Fifty years of research shows brainstorming doesn’t work. Not only does it actually kill good ideas, but it disproportionately eliminates the very best ones.
Instead, hospitals need to employ more powerful, structured methods of innovating. One proven approach is Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT). To use SIT, hospitals must retrain the way they look at the problem.
Most people believe innovation begins by establishing a well-defined problem and then thinking of ways to solve it. SIT works in the opposite way. Innovators use SIT to work backwards to take an abstract, hypothetical solution and find a problem that it can solve.
Psychologist Ronald Finke first reported this in 1992 when he recognized there are two directions of thinking: problem-to-solution and solution-to-problem. Finke discovered people are actually better at searching for benefits for given configurations (starting with a solution) than at finding the best configuration for a given benefit (starting with the problem).