‘Imagine’: A unique approach to employee empowerment at QF’s Sidra Medicine hospital in Qatar

Dr Deepak Kaura of Sidra Medicine.

Sunday, 14 January 2018 was the date of the soft opening of Sidra Medicine’s main hospital building in Qatar. It’s an occasion that has been years in the making, and will see the hospital accepting inpatient admissions by referral and appointment only.

Every one of us at Sidra Medicine have been awaiting this moment for a long time, and not just as a milestone for our standing as an organization to provide comprehensive specialist healthcare services for children and young people and maternity care for the women of Qatar.

For me, it’s also a moment in which a concept I devised, dubbed ‘Imagine’, will begin to fully form. It’s an initiative that has been a cost-savings exercise and resounding success for Sidra Medicine, as we have created, rather than imported, solutions that stem from the combined creative intelligence of our workforce.

There is simply nothing like Imagine in operation at any healthcare organization in the world outside of Sidra Medicine. It is a framework that uses the concept of crowd-sourcing to inspire innovative thinking and draw out ideas to improve processes, reduce human error, and ultimately improve patient outcomes. Our approach to encouraging innovation from within is to make sure that all our staff have an opportunity to contribute ideas in an open, constructive, and transparent process. We believe that ideas can come from anyone, whether they are a nurse, personal assistant or CEO.

In the past, the access to this talent pool for idea generation at health organizations had typically been reserved for two groups of people: those who control the money in a healthcare enterprise, and those who can write the grants necessary to access the money. I think there’s so much unexplored by this status quo. Everyone has ideas and we want to see those ideas come to life.

It was in April 2013 that I came to Sidra Medicine, inspired by Qatar National Vision 2030, with the goal of transitioning the nation to one based on ingenuity rather than natural resources. I came here to try to create an atmosphere and an environment for Imagine to happen, and I quickly realized that I had arrived at the right place. I believe that the creative intelligence of an organization is its most important asset because if you can harness it, then you have the capacity to innovate and subsequently evolve.

Building Imagine

The framework of Imagine is first and foremost, a web tool that allows employees to submit ideas. The weightage assigned to each contribution is defined as ‘influence points’. Each idea has 100 influence points and the person who generates the idea gets a certain number, in addition to those who contribute to it. The eventual, final idea is typically comprised of a team effort, with varying influence points. Staff contributions are also tracked so that, if inventions result in commercialization, those staff will be compensated proportionally. Ultimately, we are developing our intellectual property so that hospitals anywhere in the world can consider applying these methods within their own environments.

Staff share ideas all year round, which are then reviewed by a five-member Innovation Review Council, including myself. The best ideas then make it to ‘Pitch Day’, typically held 3 times per year. The Pitch Day brings the entire organization into this process, as it is accessible via live stream for those unable to physically attend. Every employee is given a vote to choose the winning proposal.

The most innovative and effective concepts are then brought to life through an expertly guided process, which incorporates the talents of the region’s only hospital-based in-house development team — the Center for Medical Innovation, Software, and Technology (CMIST), working hand-in-hand with the inventors, IT, Informatics, and Telecom teams. After pitch day, CMIST members review the feasibility of the ideas — the ease at which they can be prototyped, iterated, and released as well as the resources required to bring them to fruition. Imagine has already given life to seven solutions currently in use or ready to launch. For example, our Saffara notifications-based app, available within our outpatient pharmacies, has improved the customer experience and driven down wait times, while saving us significant costs of procuring a 3rd party system. Furthermore, because teams are in-house, we have unprecedented access to hospital systems.

Favorable responses

The early responses we’ve had to Imagine have been extremely encouraging. Patients and staff love it, as they are already seeing the benefits.

As we move toward the Sidra Medicine main hospital ramp-up and the influx of patients that will bring, we’re going to see many more people with real clinical needs and real clinical ideas to solve those problems. What we are anticipating for Imagine is a flourishing input of new ideas and new ways of doing things. That’s why the hospital opening is such an exciting time both for Sidra Medicine and Imagine.

I’ve worked in and visited a lot of healthcare institutions in my life, but what we have here at Sidra Medicine is completely unique. I truly believe I have the best job in the world. I challenge any radiologist to prove they have a better role than mine right now!

At Sidra Medicine I get to harness people’s creativity and help them dream of something, think it through, and then create it. Without the investment in education and research made by Qatar Foundation (QF) when creating Sidra Medicine, I know that this simply would not have been possible. Where else do you get a chance to do something like this, while at the same time treat children and impact the country in an incredibly positive way?

I’ve waited so long to see Imagine come to life and it’s been incredibly gratifying that Sidra took a chance on the concept of Imagine. We are creating a culture of innovation: Dream, Think, Create. Let us know if we can help you do the same.

By Dr Deepak Kaura Executive Chair — Foundation Medical Services (Radiology, Pathology, Anesthesia, Psychiatry, Peri Operative Services), Sidra Medicine