Information Management In Public Services

Improving health and healthcare using idea crowdsourcing

Published 21 January 2014

Julie Thomas, West of England AHSN Director of Development discusses how her organisation is using idea crowdsourcing SaaS amongst its 30,000-strong community to spread innovation and improvements in health

Innovation is a buzzword in both business and the public sector but we feel that few organisations are taking this as seriously as we are in the NHS. The Government's Innovation, Health and Wealth report (launched in December 2011) issued three potent challenges to the NHS:

  • Improve the implementation of proven good practice and innovation
  • Become better at generating research, enrolling patients and putting research into practice
  • Work more effectively with industry to benefit patients and the economy

In response to these challenges, 2013 saw the launch of 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSN), all of which aim to transform health and healthcare by putting innovation at the heart of the NHS.

The West of England AHSN (WE AHSN) was authorised by NHS England in July 2013 and in our six months so far we have established a vibrant and diverse network of partners, including providers of NHS care, universities, industry, NHS commissioners and a wide range of other organisations. We are committed to equality and excellence, which will accelerate the spread of innovative, evidence based practice to improve health and care quality.

WE AHSN covers a large geographical area and are aware that our objectives are far-reaching. Actually improving the health of the people in a region is no small undertaking, so one of the key ways in which we are aiming to do so is by using the power of the crowd, capturing ideas from across the network from people at all levels and with all responsibilities. Our network contains more than 30,000 people and we firmly believe that their collective thought power can be our greatest asset.

To harness this thought power, we have implemented Software as a Service (SaaS) that makes it easy for us to capture and test ideas, promote opportunities and challenges, and engage across organisational, sector and geographic boundaries. Wazoku 's Idea Spotlight for Government allows us to set our network specific challenges relating to health and people can submit their ideas in response to those challenges. The ideas are then developed and used to gain consensus about issues, assess priorities and speed up the adoption of evidence based practice.

This knowledge can in turn be deployed within the region as we seek to improve the health of people in the West of England. Crowdsourcing software works particularly well for us as it allows people to contribute to areas in which they may not previously have been involved. We are adamant that every individual in our network has something worthwhile to offer, irrespective of their usual role or responsibilities. Good ideas do not follow a hierarchy and the ability for WE AHSN to tap into everyone's take on a subject is invaluable.

So far we have found that we are using this new and interesting way of communicating to work in a different way entirely: collecting and testing ideas; advertising problems and opportunities; drawing together people from across the West of England and beyond to provide new perspectives on old problems. We expect that these new relationships between colleagues across the region will improve health and health services in their widest sense. It is straightforward for those in the network to submit an idea, whether using a PC at their desk in the office or more likely, on the move on a smartphone or tablet.

Transforming health and healthcare by putting innovation at the heart of the NHS is a grand aim. The role of the West of England Academic Health Science Network is to bring together our local NHS, universities and industry to make it happen. The capture of ideas is critical to this and using SaaS to crowdsource ideas from across our network is a simple and effective way of getting it done.

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