While there have been a number of interesting studies of innovation in the British and the US healthcare sectors, and still more to come, this is still an under-researched area in Norway and Scandinavia. The public funding by wealthy social democratic governments and the dominant public organizing of services have for decades kept the sector safe from too harsh economic and operational pressures.
But now this is gradually changing. The speed of technical innovation (globally), the increasing budgetary pressures, and the adoption of private sector organizational models and tools are together pushing hard for new solutions even here in the north; of governance, management, technology, and of organizing expertise. With the new ‘coordination reform’ in Norway (2011), the pace is increasing even more.
With such dramatic changes in such complex organizational and institutional settings, the need for scientific research – systematic investigation and evaluation – is critical and urgent. In a significant effort to establish an agenda-setting research group in this area, we are now developing projects to investigate questions related to how we can organize for inter-organizational interaction and coordination to facilitate improvement and innovation in healthcare, what governance structures promote innovation, and how we can facilitate collaboration across professional groups to promote innovative efforts. There is a great need for better in-depth understanding of the innovation dynamics, there is a need for indicators and evaluation methods, and there is a need for new models of inter-organizational interaction.
From a practice-based perspective we have addressed aspects of these questions in publications related to technology innovation, cross-professional collaboration, and organizational innovation in hospitals in recent articles. Now we think it is time to scale this up, and investigate interactive organizational and technological innovation that involve both specialist and local healthcare service providers, as well as end-users (patients). We have got the team, the partner network, and the research tools. Let’s hope that we can also get the necessary economic resources committed, so that we can get this started.