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Innovation as emergence in healthcare: Unpacking change from within
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, School of Business.
2013 (English)In: Social Science and Medicine, ISSN 0277-9536, E-ISSN 1873-5347, Vol. 93, 203-211 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The contemporary healthcare literature suffers from a disproportionate focus on 'given' externally created innovations, and belief in ordered, planned and well-funded implementation processes. As an alternative, the present paper highlights the potential of emergent change processes, using the continuous invention and re-invention of the Rheumatology Quality Registry in Sweden as an example. This 19 year long process, which is still ongoing, does not exhibit the sequential steps that are allegedly determinants of success in the innovation and implementation literature. Yet, it has produced system-wide improvements. We draw on more than 100 informal and formal meetings with practitioners involved in the process studied, observations, documentation analysis and quantitative registry-data. A total of 67 interviews with registry-users and external stakeholders were also performed. The dissipative structures model (complexity theory) was used to analyze the data. The studied process illustrates an ongoing, practice-driven improvement process, which was sparked by abstract and indirect energies that interacted with more concrete innovations such as new drugs. For example, participants tapped new information technologies, changing perspectives and governmental priorities to challenge current ways of working and introduce new ideas. Ideas were realized and spread through various self-organized processes that involved the re-arrangement of existing resources rather than acquisition of new resources. Taken together, these processes brought Swedish rheumatology to new levels of functioning 1992-2011. An important implication of our work is that incremental and practice-driven change processes can significantly transform care systems in the long run. Policy makers need to acknowledge and foster such ongoing innovation processes at micro-level, rather than focusing exclusively on innovations as externally created 'things' that await 'implementation'.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 93, 203-211 p.
Keyword [en]
Innovation, Situated change, Swedish quality registry, Complexity theory, Rheumatology, Sweden
National Category
Social Sciences Medical and Health Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-95437DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.08.035ISI: 000324608500027OAI: diva2:660823


Available from: 2013-10-31 Created: 2013-10-28 Last updated: 2013-10-31Bibliographically approved

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Essén, Anna
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