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Types of Healthcare Innovation Improving Patient Outcomes

April 14, 2024

Thought leadership and creative problem solving are at the core of innovation. Coming up with an idea that can change healthcare outcomes for the better is only the beginning. Executing that idea in accordance with current standards and regulations requires in-depth industry knowledge. 

Individuals who are passionate about innovation in health care can equip themselves to change its future by earning an advanced degree — such as a master’s degree in healthcare administration focusing on the leadership skills that predicate lifesaving innovations in health care. 

How Healthcare Innovation Overcomes Challenges 

Healthcare innovation is an expansive term. In its simplest form, it can be defined as the creation and implementation of concepts, ideas, technologies, processes, and services that benefit clinical outcomes and patient experiences. 

These innovations can range from simple to complex. Most of them stem from the healthcare industry’s persistent guiding forces, including stringent regulations, financial limitations, and health equity.

Most healthcare innovations are born of the need to overcome these industry challenges. For example, if the risk associated with a specific surgical procedure is deemed too great, innovators look for new procedures or even non-surgical options. When hospitals or networks face financial challenges, they innovate new ways to reduce spending and increase revenue. 

According to the Advisory Board, the industry research and information source, the modern healthcare industry currently faces six major challenges that range from financial woes to concerns over health equity. 

Financial Crises               

Financial woes will remain one of the healthcare industry’s greatest challenges for the foreseeable future, Deloitte predicts. Revenues are down due to low patient volumes, and while most healthcare organizations are working tirelessly to keep their labor costs down, wages continue to grow. This is compounded by the increased cost of medical supplies and medications due to inflation. 

In the coming years, many healthcare innovations will focus on improving operations at the financial level without sacrificing the quality of patient care. These innovations may include more inclusive and transparent billing for services, employee retention programs, and better overall relationships with vendors. 

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Many major healthcare organizations manage their finances by merging with and absorbing other smaller systems. In this way, they can spread their expenses over a larger network. The larger the healthcare organization grows, the more negotiating leverage it gains with insurance companies, and the better the discounts from vendors. In a massive network, these financial strategies can add up to millions of dollars each year in savings. 

As a result, many small facilities and private practices are feeling pressure to merge. Thanks to the sheer volume of savings, the larger networks can offer better services at lower costs, which makes it virtually impossible for smaller providers to compete. Healthcare innovation — especially concerning how services are delivered — could help smaller, rural health care facilities remain relevant or maintain their independence.

Health Equity Concerns               

Health equity is another major concern, and many communities have implemented public health advocacy programs that focus on underserved populations. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is increasingly focused on the quality of care being offered by insurers and healthcare providers alike. The newest quality measures include considering adverse events related to the use of opioids, the depth of risk factor and social-need screenings, and even maternal health, a serious issue in the United States. 

Healthcare innovation could help solve these health equity concerns. Processes that streamline patient screenings can catch social and risk factors early. New procedures or changes to existing procedures could vastly improve maternal health. Researchers continue to seek advanced pain management that does not rely on potentially dangerous and addictive opioids. Health equity concerns will continue to drive change and play an important role in improving patient outcomes.

Contract Disputes               

Payer-provider contracts are slated to change in the coming years. Wage growth, staffing issues, increased supply costs, and more are pushing healthcare organizations to demand higher payments from insurers for everyday services. Insurers are concerned about limited commercial business, so they feel pressured to comply. 

However, when insurers pay more for everything from a routine wellness check to a complex surgery, they pass those costs on to the insured (to the patient). As a result, the average U.S. consumer pays a higher premium, health care becomes inaccessible for some, and patient loads fall once again. Healthcare innovation could disrupt this negative feedback loop to help make provider networks and insurance companies profitable without increasing the average cost for consumers. 


According to the Medical Group Management Association, staffing is the biggest challenge for healthcare practices of all sizes as of 2023. More facilities are having difficulty finding qualified and dependable providers, which includes everyone from surgeons to nursing aides. While there are numerous reasons for the healthcare industry’s shortcomings in terms of patient outcomes, the shortages of physicians and nursing staff is the most critical. 

Healthcare innovations that focus on recruiting and retaining staff are on the horizon. These may include strategies such as offering better benefits packages, making long-term employment contracts more favorable to high-profile providers, and finding the funds necessary to offer regular cost-of-living wage increases. 

Digital Health               

Digital health has transformed the way Americans receive health care. More U.S. consumers than ever have access to affordable digital care, and in turn, digital health care is playing an important role in solving the health equity crisis. However, smaller practices and organizations often lack the funding to develop digital health solutions. Failure to keep up with modern health care offerings can lead to a significant loss of revenue. 

Some of the best and most transformative innovations will likely occur in the digital health space. Affordable tools to build common healthcare apps make it easier (and cheaper) for private practices and smaller healthcare networks to offer digital services, and other digital solutions give providers and patients new ways to track their progress at a glance.

Types of Healthcare Innovation 

Healthcare innovation examples date back centuries. In fact, one of the most well-known and lauded innovations is the discovery of penicillin, which has saved millions of lives since the early 1930s. Diagnostic imaging such as X-rays, CAT scans, and MRIs have allowed for the early detection of cancers and other conditions that would have been terminal less than a century ago.

Things have come a long way since then. Innovations abound, and more breakthroughs are announced with every passing year. 

Disruptive Innovation in Health Care               

By definition, disruptive innovation in health care involves a technology or process that turns the delivery of health care upside down. It is sometimes referred to as “radical innovation” because it can challenge industry standards and create new leaders in the field of medicine. 

One of the most well-known examples of disruptive innovation in the healthcare industry was the introduction of the mobile health application. These simple tools give consumers the ability to view their health records or even see a provider within minutes, all from the comfort of home. In some hospitals, doctors are even performing virtual “rounds” that can reduce the spread of communicable diseases. 

Consumer-Driven Innovation in Health Care               

Consumer-driven innovation is any technology or process that is designed to improve the consumer’s experience or satisfy their expectations. For example, health care has been historically delivered with very little collaboration, but healthcare innovation has led to the development of collaborative care. 

Just a decade ago, a patient might have seen a general practitioner who would then refer the patient to an oncologist if cancer was a concern. If the cancer was found in the liver, the oncologist might then refer the same patient to a hepatologist, and if cancer was found also to affect the urinary system, the patient would then be required to see a urologist. 

While there are certainly benefits associated with multiple qualified professionals focusing on the same health concern, the lack of collaboration and teamwork between professionals can adversely affect patient outcomes and lead to increased patient frustration. As such, the collaborative care model is one of the best examples of consumer-driven healthcare innovation in the U.S. It ensures that providers work together with patients and their families in convenient, efficient, and effective ways. 

Business Model Innovation in Health Care               

Business model innovation can be defined as strategies designed to make high-quality health care more affordable and inclusive at the business level. Often, business model innovation incorporates other types of innovation, including technological or consumer-driven ideas. 

One example may include providing new parents with an app that connects them directly with their infants in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs). This improves the patient experience and sets the hospital apart from its competitors. Another example might include a private practice gerontologist offering house calls, rather than requiring older adult patients to travel for their frequent appointments. 

Technological Innovation in Health Care               

Technological innovation in health care can be disruptive, consumer-driven, or focused on improving the business model. In many cases, new technology innovates in all of these ways. Some of the most recent technologies have drastically improved health care in exciting and often awe-inspiring ways. 

Extended Reality

Extended reality (XR) combines virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), and augmented reality (AR) in ways that alter how a patient views and interacts with the world. This technology has had major implications for the healthcare industry. 

  • Surgical Training: Surgeons can use XR technology to practice complex or delicate operations on virtual patients rather than putting patients at risk or requiring medical cadavers. 
  • Patient Treatment: XR can be used in combination with therapy to help children with autism learn coping skills. It can also be used as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which has been shown effective for everything from relieving pain to reducing anxiety. 
  • Phlebotomy: A system known as AccuVein makes it easier for doctors, nurses, and phlebotomists to find veins when they need to start IVs or give injections, thereby improving the patient experience. 
  • Surgery: Microsoft’s HoloLens technology helps surgeons receive real-time information about what they are seeing in the operating room, which can drastically reduce surgery times and improve patient outcomes.

AI and Machine Learning

The sheer volume of medical data collected every day is astounding, and technological innovation plays an important role in using that data to improve the delivery of health care. AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning can turn that vast amount of data into structured information that can be used in countless ways. 

For example, AI may someday be able to detect slight variations in a single patient’s MRI or CAT scan and prompt lifesaving early treatment. Machine learning and AI may also be helpful in identifying risk factors that drastically improve preventative medicine. 

Digital Twins

The concept of digital twins continues to gain interest in the healthcare industry. Theoretically, a digital twin is a virtual version of a patient — right down to the exact blood chemistry. Using a virtual twin offers the opportunity to test different treatment options without the fear of real-life adverse reactions. The technology does not exist quite yet, but some researchers have managed to create human organ twins. These give doctors the option to practice pathologies and experiment without harming their patients. 

The Internet of Medical Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a term that refers to the interconnected nature of various computing devices. The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) follows the same concept, but it refers to the interconnectedness of medical devices and technologies that can improve patient outcomes. This healthcare innovation will make it possible for collaborative care teams to monitor their patients’ progress and respond to treatment from afar. 

For example, patient vitals could be collected at home via several sensors, then sent to a team of collaborative care providers via the IoMT for review. The providers could receive notifications if any of the patient’s vitals become a concern, and they may even be able to deliver a dose of medication on demand via the internet. Such healthcare innovation could save countless hours and significantly reduce costs, all while ensuring the patient is being monitored and treated in real time. 

3D Printing

3D printing has revolutionized virtually every industry, from manufacturing to medicine. When it was first introduced, doctors and imaging experts would team up to print life-size replicas of a diseased human organ — including the blood vessels — to plan a complex surgical procedure before their patients were ever on the table. 

Now, rather than using 3D printers to create plastic or silicone replicas of organs, it’s possible to print the organs themselves. A 2023 article published by CNN notes that 3D organ bioprinting could make this possible in as little as 10 years. For people who have spent years on waiting lists for organ transplants, this regenerative technology could make it possible to essentially print the required organ. If these organs are patient-specific, anti-rejection medications may become obsolete. 

Become a Healthcare Innovator and Improve Patient Outcomes 

Healthcare innovation happens every day around the world. New ideas, new concepts, and new technologies capable of radical improvements are just around the corner. Bringing those ideas and concepts to fruition requires an in-depth knowledge of the medical industry, especially from the administrative standpoint. 

You can play a role in improving clinical outcomes and transforming patient experiences. Discover how you can become one of tomorrow’s most disruptive healthcare innovators with an Online Master of Health Administration (MHA) degree from Tulane University. 

Advance Your Public Health Career with an MHA Program

Pursue Your Degree Online From Tulane University
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Recommended Readings

How to Become a Medical and Health Services Manager

Ethics in Health Care: Improving Patient Outcomes

The Impact of Hospital Staff Shortages on Patients


Advisory Board, “The 6 Challenges Facing Health Care in 2023: and How to Handle Them

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 2023 Annual Call for Quality Measures Fact Sheet

CNN Health, “When We’ll Be Able to 3D-Print Organs and Who Will Be Able to Afford Them”

Deloitte, 2023 Global Health Care Outlook

Forbes, “The Five Biggest Healthcare Tech Trends in 2022”

IBM, “What Is Healthcare Innovation?”

IETE Technical Review, “Internet of Medical Things (IoMT): Overview, Emerging Technologies, and Case Studies”

McKinsey and Company, “Digital Health: An Opportunity to Advance Health Equity”

McKinsey and Company, “The Essentials of Healthcare Innovation”

Medical Group Management Association, “Healthcare in 2023: Staffing Is Still the Biggest Challenge For Practices as Financial Worries Grow”

World Economic Forum, “These Are 7 of the Most Exciting Breakthroughs in Healthcare Today”