You’d be forgiven for thinking that when innovative new services and products reach the market and cause established household names to fall by the wayside, it’s simply a matter of consumer choice. But there is an observable science to what happens.
All innovations, whether in the shops where we choose to buy our week’s food, or the airlines we fly with, or in services we use, fall into two distinct categories: they are either “sustaining” or “disruptive”.
Sustaining innovations don’t challenge the types of things our services and products offer to us. Rather, they just look or feel slightly different – and hopefully marginally or radically better. While on the other hand, disruptive innovations can be thought of as “game-changers” – products, services, processes or business models that reshape and transform the markets into which they are launched.
Look at Tesco. The retailer has reported sales in 12 weeks to 17 August were 4% down on the same period last year, while its young competitors’ sales grew by 29.5% at Aldi and 18.3% at Lidl. One article in the Telegraph pointed out that the chief executive of the number one UK supermarket brand had “lost touch with why it existed in the first place”. It would seem that under his stewardship Tesco was led away from what customers really wanted. His attempts to satisfy the higher end of the market opened the door for the fleet-of-foot, more cost-effective innovators to swoop in.
Aldi and Lidl in this instance are what’s known as low-end, disruptive innovators. These emerge when the supposed market leaders over-supply their customers to the extent that what they have to offer is surplus to requirements for a meaningful few. In turn, a vacuum is created that enables less demanding customers to find what they want at much lower costs in a way that is good enough. Aldi and Lidl employ a vastly different business model of logistics and investment to keep their costs down and the business focused.
In many ways, looking at the healthcare system, we have to wonder if some acute leaders are guilty of doing exactly what Tesco’s leaders have done. In seeking to be leading edge, have they become too complex, their staff bogged down in expertise? Have they forgotten what they are there for – that is, to look after people trying to get better?
As hospitals continue to innovate beyond the needs of the many in the communities they serve, might we see disruptive innovators from within community services swooping in? Those services would likely deploy people, who some may consider to have fewer skills, to provide the public with services they actually need in a more convenient setting. Perhaps patients might opt to see a nurse in their favourite coffee shop or GPs could examine your colleague’s rash over Skype, at a time that suited them.
This kind of innovation is happening now. Take Buurtzorg in the Netherlands: the company is a mere eight years old, and has already made a significant impact, employing 8,000 nurses, with 200 new recruits joining every month. Jos de Blok, its chief executive, has argued that community services like those supplied by Buurtzorg do not need management structures. “People can manage their own work and budgets,” he says. For, every time its nurses work with someone, they make sure to find out first-hand how well they live – not simply for medical reasons but also for social ones, given the considerable interplay between the two.
“In doing this, nurses have a fuller picture of who they are treating, and never simply rely on someone else’s hand-scribbled notes. They seek to connect their clients to physical or virtual networks of people who are faced with similar challenges. Best of all, patient satisfaction levels are high and running costs are low.
Closer to home, in Birmingham, Digital Life Sciences and its partners at the Vitality Partnership will soon be connecting tens of thousands of patients to their GPs and health professionals via Skype, SMS and other digital channels. This will offer primary and community care services in a more timely fashion, in more convenient settings and give patients and carers access to the data is likely to help service users and providers to be much more proactive.
Go to full article: Could community services be the Lidl of the NHS?