Leveraging Patients’ Creative Ideas for Innovation in Health Care

Original Scholarship
Population Health
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Policy Points:

  • Patients’ creative ideas may inform learning and innovation that improve patient-centered care.
  • Routinely collected patient experience surveys provide an opportunity to invite patients to share their creative ideas for improvement. We develop and assess a methodological strategy that validates question wording designed to elicit creative ideas from patients.
  • Health care organizations should consider how to report and use these data in health care delivery and quality improvement, and policymakers should consider promoting the use of narrative feedback to better understand and respond to patients’ experiences.

Context: Learning health systems (LHSs) have been promoted for a decade to achieve high-quality, patient-centered health care. Innovation driven by knowledge generated through day-to-day health care delivery, including patient insights, is critical to LHSs. However, the pace of translating patient insights into innovation is slow and effectiveness inadequate. This study aims to evaluate a method for systematically eliciting patients’ creative ideas, examine the value of such ideas as a source of insight, and examine patients’ creative ideas regarding how their experiences could be improved within the context of their own health systems.

Methods: The first stage of the study developed a survey and tested strategies for elicitation of patients’ creative ideas with 600 patients from New York State. The second stage deployed the survey with the most generative open-ended question sequence within a health care system and involved analysis of 1,892 patients’ responses, including 2,948 creative ideas.

Findings: Actionable, creative feedback was fostered by incorporating a request for transformative feedback into a sequence of narrative elicitation questions. Patients generate more actionable and creative ideas when explicitly invited to share such ideas, especially patients with negative health care experiences, those from minority racial/ethnic backgrounds, and those with chronic illness. The most frequently elicited creative ideas focused on solving challenges, proposing interventions, amplifying exceptional practices, and conveying hopes for the future.

Conclusions: A valid and reliable method for eliciting creative ideas from patients can be deployed as part of routine patient experience surveys that include closed-ended survey items and open-ended narrative items in which patients share their experiences in their own words. The elicited creative ideas are promising for patient engagement and innovation efforts. This study highlights the benefits of engaging patients for quality improvement, offers a rigorously tested method for cultivating innovation using patient-generated knowledge, and outlines how creative ideas can enable organizational learning and innovation.

Lee YSH, Grob R, Nembhard I, Shaller D, Schlesinger M. Leveraging Patients’ Creative Ideas for Innovation in Health Care. Milbank Q. 2024;102(1):1214.