Y. Askfors, M. Hollmark, S. Haasl, B. Guve

Royal Institute of Technology (SWEDEN)
The improbable dialogue is the unexpected dialogue between professionals and students that generally never meet professionally. This dialogue may be the channel in which the curiosity and openness of an novice can reflect on the daily work of a specialist, ultimately resulting in the development of ideas, knowledge exchange and learning. This paper presents a strategy and a method to reinforce the innovation system through interdisciplinary, multi-professional collaboration, where healthcare and academy learn from each other. The Clinical Innovation Fellowship program enables this learning to take place and has shown to be a successful catalyst for the improbable dialogue.

Clinical Innovation Fellowships is a program that creates conditions for learning. It aims to educate innovators and to develop innovations that result in more efficient healthcare production (Pineiro et al 2011). Multi-professional teams constituting competence in engineering, medicine, industrial design/management consulting work together full-time during eight months, with the aim to identify clinical needs that can be met by a medical technology innovation (process, product or service) or by an organizational improvement. Among the clinical needs identified by the fellow candidates during their observation period at a hospital clinic, three needs are validated and approved by the clinic management as appropriate projects for master students. Other needs are collected in a database and taken care of in e.g. student project courses.

The master students learn from the projects; and in addition to methodology and a deep knowledge about the subject, they gain knowledge about the medical technology field and multi-professional collaborations. The master students develop an understanding of healthcare needs and innovative thinking together with the fellow candidates. The master student projects, being collaborations with healthcare and different academic faculties, build networks of professionals in different fields, create an understanding for the different triple helix parties and generate dedicated projects to solve clinical needs. From our experience, the stage is set for the improbable dialogue when a clinic has taken the first step to host a Fellowship team, and subsequently meets the master students assigned to the team. Healthcare professionals, as well as fellow candidates, students and the clinic management learn a lot from their interactions (Dedering 2013).

Learning is an important result from the Fellowship program: besides the Fellow candidates and the master students themselves, almost all parties involved in the program gain new knowledge and experience. The healthcare institutions learn and communication channels can be kept open by Fellows, master students and student projects. Also, communication channels between healthcare institutions that have participated in the program are created through the gained, and shared, understanding of innovative methods in healthcare. As the number of fellows and associated master students increases, a critical mass of trained innovators will be available for the healthcare system, the academy and the industry.

Healthcare must be given more opportunities to work as a knowledge organization (VindefjÀrd et al 2013). For effective learning leading to effective healthcare processes, a step in the right direction for a healthcare system under pressure might be the multi-professional program Clinical Innovation Fellowships.