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  • Mercè Bonjorn Dalmau

Researching eHealth as a distance race


This week I delivered my PhD proposal framed in the CATCH programme, specifically on support commercialization of service innovation through design thinking: the case of technology-enabled cancer solution. The truth is that I felt tremendously relieved when, after three months, I observed with pride the detailed report I gave (thanks to all my supervisors).

Even so I have the feeling that I am in the ABC of a long process of learning and knowledge of the completion of a doctorate. It is as if I had undertaken training to be able to run a marathon in 3 years! The key to a great personal challenge such as a marathon or doctorate is to assume each phase as necessary to achieve the final result. We must avoid the mistake of wanting to go faster than our body and mind allows us. In this post I will try to summarize my feelings and learning during these first months.

Now I'm going to explain first "training-readings" about "marathon-thesis"

Research into eHealth, a Need for the Future

The general objective of my research is to contribute with new knowledge in the field of service innovation by researching how design thinking could influence the company's efforts in the marketing of innovation solutions in electronic health services in the field of cancer.

I have only been immersed in reading many documents, papers, reports, books and much more on how to integrate marketing from the beginning in service innovation, on how to design new creative processes through design thinking where all are included the stakeholders of the process, how to generate added value throughout the research process of an eHealth solution.

In practice, most of service innovation are empirically understood as eHealth (Catwell & Sheikh, 2009) solutions to play an important role in the shaping of health care systems in the twenty-first century and for this research is needed based on the scientific evidence.

Gradually, considerable interest has developed at international level, for example in the Europe 2020 vision, the use of advanced technology is to ensure an improvement in the quality of life and health of citizens. It is an important aspect of the EU 2020 vision (Oh et al., 2005) and the implementation of the IT Solution can radically revolutionize and improve health services (Miller, 2015, and report EU Health Task Force, 2012) especially on the issues of exploitation of the potential of information and communication technology (ICT), which are systems that improve the quality, safety and efficiency of health care.

The field of eHealth is promising to support and enable change in health behavior and prevention and management of chronic diseases (Ahern, 2006), especially in Cancer considered increasingly a chronic disease. eHealth businesses tend to have difficulty achieving sustainability.

Building successful eHealth solutions based on service innovation critically depends on the capabilities of companies in marketing this solution (Datta & Reed, 2012)

There is practical evidence indicating that the company is committed to marketing service innovation solutions in the eHealth experience. We have financial barriers to entering the field of e-health, as well as the time costs surrounding development, launch, ongoing updates, maintenance, legal fees and long-term sales cycles for business-to-business. Moreover, the vast majority of B2B and B2C models have failed.

It is here that the importance of increasing government funding and continuing partnerships between companies and research institutions (such as a consortium CATCH programme) is needed to find a good resolution for these problems and for e-health programs to reach their business potential and improve traditional delivery of health services (Van Mierlo, 2009).

Design Thinking, thinking and integrating to innovate

Everyone recognizes the importance of innovation when it comes to being competitive in an uncertain, volatile, digital and complex environment such as the current one. In addition, very few organizations admit to be fully satisfied with the results of their innovation plans.

Only companies that are able to meet the needs of the innovative and early adopter segments are more likely to possess the resources and capabilities to develop disruptive innovations

It is for this reason that companies persist in the search for the keys that in some companies, innovation flourishes in a systematic way, while in others, in the best of cases, is left in the hands of chance. To succeed in a series of innovations (sustainable and disruptive) companies must also develop skill sets of other types of strategies.

One way to handle these different skills is to use design thinking, as it allows the development of business strategies and value creation models for different interest groups, which is of particular importance in developing the service Innovation (Barrett et al., 2015).

In this sense, and especially for some years, design thinking is emphasizing as one of the most effective ways to innovate. It is a different approach and attitude towards innovation based on using the process that the designers and their tools to meet their challenges.

In the research literature the application of design and design thinking based on a deep research process leads to the transformation into product meanings and continuous renewal of business concepts creating a certain order in the conceptual chaos.

Hence the need to continue researching in the marketing processes through design approaches

Another aspect to consider in design-based innovation is the role that users attribute to the product or service rather than the functional changes in the product or service itself. Currently, an integrated vision of design is sought as a problem-solving process involving players from multiple disciplines (Beckman and Barry, 2007).

Design thinking allows us to address, in a systematic and creative way, any type of problem or challenge raised (through iterative reviews)

Companies need a "human-centered" design approach to navigate the blurring of lines between product and service. Producer and consumer and contemporary innovation should focus on designing the user's emotional experience. When design thinking is used beyond the design context it is pertinent to acquire different skills and competences closely linked to each other. These are:

  1. Focus on the human being,

  2. Strong integration of experimentation,

  3. Multidisciplinary teams,

  4. Holistic views of problems, therefore, define problems as complex and,

  5. The six-step process comprising understanding, observing, idea, prototype and test (Geissdoerfer et al., 2016).

In IT markets, service innovation management means redesigning and adapting new and existing services to cope with frequent exogenous changes and new opportunities for all stakeholders (Carlborg et al, 2013). Within the business domain, design thinking has been described as the best way to be creative and innovative (Johansson-Sköldberg, U. et al., 2013) and find ways to integrate all actors in the process. For this reason, we should focus on human-centered and gain a better understanding of customer interactions as well as with other stakeholders in the organization's service market (Carlborg et al, 2013).

The business community has learned the value of design thinking as a way to innovate in addressing people's needs - and health systems could also benefit greatly.

In this sense, some famous results of the use of design thinking in business achieved by big corporations; in the health sector, for example the Mayo Clinic and Kaiser Permanente - both in the USA - or the Sant Joan de Déu Hospital in Barcelona (Spain). Design thinking has gained attention today and, despite this, there is still a great lack of knowledge and confusion about what is really behind design thinking and how it is implemented.

In the CATCH programme, we will discuss how design thinking applies to health care challenges and how service innovation can use this proven and accessible problem-solving process. We will test how design thinking can foster new approaches to complex and persistent e-health solutions through human-centered research, involving all the stakeholders in the process, and rapid prototyping.

It´s the beginning of an exciting and interesting research

I look forward to continuing to read and learn about integrating research with the reality of the eHealth market. I hope to find little by little the "connections" between the academic world and the world of the company to carry out an investigation that really adds value to the companies... because, in a word, this is not it? To generate evidence to transfer knowledge of the academic to the business world and to be able to put on the market ideas that help the patient journey in his day to day life in the process of his illness.

I will continue working to put my grain of sand into the future of our health system.

#cancer #CATCH #catchitn #innovation #business #eHealth #commercialisation #designthinking

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© 2016 CATCH. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement 
No. 722012