Innovation happens. With all the new technologies and processes sprouting every day in Africa, it becomes more and more challenging to manage and keep track of innovation. This is also the case, unfortunately, at organizational levels. I’m quoting here from Gray’s Evidence-based Healthcare some of the ways to best manage the introduction of innovation which I find relevant to the debate on ICT4Health:
- Starting starting right—those innovations that do more good than harm, and which are affordable, are introduced at a defined standard of quality. Promoting these types of innovations are generally novel interventions and/or those that change the provision of an established service;
- Starting stopping—those innovations that do more harm than good but have already entered the service are no longer offered;
- Stopping starting—those innovations that do more harm than good are not introduced;
- Promoting pilots/trials—innovations of unknown effect are investigated during trials/pilots;
- Slowing starting—those innovation that require training and infrastructure are introduced in a planned way.
How should development partners, implementing agencies and governments manage all the innovations of ICT for health?
Be active. Managing innovation must be an active process.
Do not implement without evidence. When no evidence of quality research is available to show that an intervention does more good than harm, it should not be introduced. No matter how much you want to, resist the temptation.
Be clear. Identify innovations that you don’t want to purchase for a population due to the lack of evidence of effectiveness. Also, those interventions/technologies of proven ineffectiveness or unproven effectiveness should be identified
Fund or promote pilots/trials. Fund or promote as many pilots as possible that satisfy the evidence requirements to make innovations useful. Engage in rapid assessments and let those that fail fail fast.