Publication date

How can we transfer service and policy innovations between health systems?

Nolte, E., Groenewegen, P. How can we transfer service and policy innovations between health systems? Copenhagen: WHO, 2021.
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This policy brief is a deliverable of the TO-REACH project.
The TO-REACH project addressed what the key priority areas are where European health systems can learn from each other and how we can improve their ability to do so. This brief is one of a pair of policy briefs and looks at the how – that is, how health systems can learn from each other. It also looks at what determines success and failure in the transfer of service and policy innovations and in scale-up.

Key points:
1. Innovation transfer is more successful given certain attributes or contextual conditions:
- It is easier to adopt and implement innovations that have a clear-cut advantage in (cost) effectiveness.
- Knowing that the innovation will address the service or policy challenge, along with understanding the sociocultural context, is crucial in realising the potential for successful transfer.
- Innovations have to be translated and customized to improve ‘fit’ with local conditions.
- Customization requires a good understanding of the innovation itself; of how the innovation interacts with its context; and of the process of transfer itself.
- Experts and decision-makers, individuals, organizations and networks, all play a role in innovation transfer and diffusion. Securing their commitment encourages success.

2. Collaborative European research could most usefully address the aspects of innovation transfer that need to be understood better, including:
- The particular health system characteristics and the wider context elements that are conducive to adopting, implementing and sustaining service and policy innovations.
- How different levels of health systems manage innovation and the impact of these differences on the transfer of service and policy innovations across regions and countries.
- The nature of the evidence needed to inform the transfer of innovations, including the types of knowledge needed in different settings and conditions and how they are used, as well as what gets lost in ‘policy translation’.
- The impact of service and policy innovations on health system performance, including any unintended consequences.
- The research methodologies that can best advance cross-country learning, including how to identify country ‘units’ for comparison; how to handle context; and addressing measurement problems.

3. European collaboration on research would provide a solid basis for addressing the challenges of health and care systems transformation and would help to maximise learning between European health systems.