Inviting Innovation

Last week, I mulled over the fact that we often get discouraged by how long it takes to bring about change and forget that good ideas take time to form, settle down and come to reality. But often when we actually stop to consider our progress, results are plain to see. Last week delivered one such result, as we welcomed Sir Ray Avery and others to Ko Awatea for the Health Innovation Hub Roadshow.

As those who attended will recall, New Zealand’s CV is crammed with fine examples of innovation and ambition – we were the first country to give women the vote, a New Zealander split the atom and a Kiwi was the first to climb Mt Everest (although it was a Welsh man who measured it!). I think we have all the brainpower we need right here to build on this history of innovation and create a really bright future. We just need to remove the barriers that stop us thinking innovatively about solutions to global healthcare problems.

That is where the Health Innovation Hub comes in. Supported by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and local economic development agencies, it partners the Auckland DHBs with Canterbury DHB to help nurture and grow New Zealand’s health technology industry and support innovations developed within the public health sector and collaboratively with industry. Already it has received interest from international venture capitalists! The hub’s deputy chairman is Sir Ray, himself a leading innovator in the health sector whose work has dramatically improved countless lives in the developing world. The chairman is Dr Murray Horn who also chairs the National Health Board.

As we heard from Sir Ray, New Zealanders are people who dare to dream, who give things a go and who persevere to find solutions to their problems. We are all capable of innovation which starts, he says, from one pivotal moment of observation. Unfortunately, however, most of are too busy with the day-to-day routine to find that moment. He shared the example of Colin Murdoch who invented the first plastic disposable syringe after his pen ran out of ink. He was an ordinary Kiwi who made an observation, had an idea and changed global healthcare as a result (although as Sir Ray noted, Colin neglected to patent his invention internationally and therefore New Zealand did not benefit as much as it could have). The role of the Health Innovation Hub is to help the next ‘Colin Murdochs’ take their innovations to market and in doing so, improve healthcare and make New Zealand the epicentre of innovation in the world.

Guests at the roadshow also heard from our own Consultant Cardiologist, Wil Harrison who has been working on projects with industry. He noted that we are surrounded by devices and services ripe for development but it takes clinicians to identify areas of need in order for that to happen. If we don’t stand back and think about the bigger picture, we miss opportunities where ideas can be brought to life. And while clinicians may distrust business motives, innovation often speaks to the heart of what public health is all about – developing ideas that will bring benefits to our patients.

I echo Wil’s comments. If you have an idea you want to discuss contact the Health Innovation Hub, which will link closely with Ko Awatea’s research and innovation activities at CMDHB. No idea is a dumb idea and the Hub might provide the support required to bring that idea to life. It really does provide a unique opportunity for us all to develop ideas that will benefit patients, increase job satisfaction and generate shared revenue, some of which can be reinvested into the work that we do. And while I’ll have to keep reminding myself that good ideas take time to come to reality, I look greatly forward to seeing what innovative products and services we develop together.



Author: Geraint Martin

Geraint Martin was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Counties Manukau DHB in December 2006. It is one of the largest District Health Boards in New Zealand and services a population of half a million. He has significant experience over 30 years in national policy & in managing both primary and secondary care . Previously, he was Director of Health and Social Care Strategy at the Welsh Government .He authored a radical 10 year strategy of reform, including the successful “Saving 1000 lives” Campaign.Until 2004, he was CEO at Kettering General Hospital & had held senior positions in London & Birmingham.He has worked closely with clinicians in improving clinical standards,patient safety,chronic disease management & managing acute care to reduce hospital demand.In NZ, He has promoted clinical quality and leadership as central to improving patientcare. This has led to a significant increases in productivity and access, whilst maintaining financial balance. CMH has completed in 2014 a $500 m capital redevelopment programme, the largest in New Zealand. A central part of this is the establishment of Ko Awatea,the Centre for Innovation and Research which will underpin CMH as one of the the leading health systems in Australasia.In 2008, he chaired the Ministerial Review of Emergency Care in New Zealand, and in 2013 was an member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Health Sector Performance. Geraint has an MSc in Health Policy from Birmingham University .His post-graduate work has focused on health economics and Corporate Strategy . He is adjunct Professor of Healthcare Management at AUT and Victoria University, Wellington Elected in 2006 as a Companion of the Institute of Healthcare Management, previously he was an Associate Fellow at Birmingham University.He is is Chair of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, a member of the Institute of Directors, on the Board of the NZ Institute of Health Management & previously the Board of The NZ Health Quality and Safety Commission.

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