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Is challenge-based innovation the key to the future healthcare system?

Our healthcare system faces future tasks that require solutions we do not yet have. In fact, we don't even know what solutions we need. This makes it challenging for both hospitals and companies to engage in traditional procurement processes.

The initiative to work with challenge-based innovation stems from a shared vision among partners in Health Innovation Aarhus. Everyone agrees that cross-sector collaboration is necessary. No one can solve the healthcare system's challenges alone.

And there are plenty of challenges. Initially, it is about clearly defining them and then exploring potentials, resources, and opportunities to solve them through innovation.

The goal is simple: we must ensure that we continue to have a world-class healthcare system in the future.

But the path to achieving this is complex and currently unknown. It requires trust, patience, and structure as we navigate it together. Fortunately, we have a long tradition of cross-sector collaboration in our region. This will be an advantage in this effort, says Thomas Larsen, Chief Medical Officer in the Central Denmark Region:

"In the Central Denmark Region, we have a task in transforming our healthcare system. One of the tools for this is innovation. Our hope with this collaboration is that we can contribute to the transformation through strong partnerships between the public and private sectors. Therefore, we are now specifically looking at the particularly large challenges that span the primary and secondary sectors. And we want to show the world what strengths we have in the Central Denmark Region—because we are heavyweights when it comes to collaboration," says Thomas Larsen.

Identifying challenges

So far, the hospitals and administrative functions in the Central Denmark Region have been working to identify some of the hospitals' central challenges. These include issues related to finances, numerous outpatient visits, and an increasing shortage of staff. Now, we are working on defining these challenges in a way that also makes sense to private companies. For this, we have sought consultation with a few companies from HIA.

In the further work of exploring challenges, all HIA partners are invited to the table. A premise for participation is that it starts with thinking and developing together—not about selling. Of course, partnerships can emerge in the long run. But because we do not yet know the solutions to the challenges, we must stay in the 'nest' together for a while. Other participants, such as civil society, patients, clinicians, etc., also need to be part of the conversations.

Aarhus Municipality is also part of the work, and challenges from the primary sector will also be formulated.

An important issue for politicians too

The close collaboration between the region, companies, and the broader ecosystem is essential for developing good healthcare solutions. Therefore, it is also on the radar of Central Denmark Region's politicians. Not least for regional council chairman Anders Kühnau, who also plays a central role at the national level in promoting the innovation agenda and advocating for close collaboration between the public and private sectors.

The regional council's committee for Development, Sustainability, Technology, and Construction (UBTA) discussed the importance of political involvement in innovation work back in January, when they were invited to a roundtable discussion with HIA partners at Aarhus University Hospital. Committee chairman Henrik Gottlieb Hansen (S) says:

"As politicians, we can help break down barriers around hospitals' collaboration with companies, and we can help set some political goals. We need more business collaboration if we are to succeed in delivering healthcare in the coming years with the significant increase in the elderly population and the need for labor. We have and will have major challenges and therefore need solutions that we do not yet know. We need to be able to discuss these with companies before there is even an idea for a product."

What will the process be - and how can you contribute?

Are you interested in hearing more about how we work with challenge-based innovation? Then you should come to our network event on August 14 at Aarhus University. Besides networking, we will provide an update on what has happened in HIA over the past year, including the work on the major challenges. Otherwise, you need to be a little patient and wait for us to open more of the process in the fall. Here, HIA partners will be invited to a series of workshops focused on unfolding the challenges. All while we are in the nest, of course.

… More on that later.

Sign up for the event here