Purpose The medical community has seen a high level of interest in innovation over recent years. In response, health systems and medical centers have established innovation offices or centers, but their processes and practices for fostering innovation are not well understood. This information could help leaders in the medical community discern and develop criteria for assessing the tools and approaches most effective in fostering innovation. Method The authors outlined a framework for examining factors involved when health systems attempt to foster innovation, and used the framework to design a semistructured qualitative interview study to collect information in 2012 and 2013 about how a purposive sample of three health systems have implemented strategies for fostering and supporting innovation. Results All interview sites carried out some form of in-house innovation strategy, and experienced institution-level barriers to innovation. A common barrier was having the right resources and infrastructure to support the transition from prototype and pilot to operations. All sites had funding support from senior leadership, but success metrics took different forms. Conclusions This study demonstrated the usefulness of the framework for conceptualizing innovation in medicine and suggests the potential of collecting data to support the assessment of innovation programs. In the three centers studied, the authors found a range of strategies employed to foster innovation and a range of criteria used to assess success of the program. Further study should examine a larger sample of institutions and be carried out over a longer time frame to allow for assessment of success.
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