Medical trainees face barriers to innovation during training, study finds

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As healthcare continues to expand and evolve, acquiring the skill set of an innovator has become more critical in all stages of medical training, a new study has found.

The study was published in the journal, Nature Biotechnology and conducted by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Authors define innovation in the healthcare industry as “the implementation of a novel idea in the advancement of care delivery and health outcomes.”

Most medical students, residents, and fellows do not see themselves as innovators, the research revealed, but eliminating certain barriers and teaching the fundamentals of innovation could allow more trainees to bring novel ideas to the bedside, according to Marc Succi, MD, senior author of the paper and MGH emergency radiologist.

This new study expands Succi’s previous efforts to understand where roadblocks in the innovation process exist. A select number of medical trainees were invited to take a survey that asked about their involvement in innovation, what barriers they perceived in pursuing innovation, and what tools they needed to develop their ideas.

The survey received responses from 51 medical trainees and researchers found several key findings. First, only 31 percent considered themselves innovators; the remaining respondents said they are either not innovators or weren’t sure. In addition, the trainees identified key impediments to innovation. Asked to rank which barriers are “most important,” 43 percent of survey participants cited limited time and energy; 35 percent said lack of physical resources; and 31 percent pointed to lack of expertise.

Participants were also asked what might help them become more innovative. Sixty-one percent said time for developing ideas; 49 percent pointed to financial support from grants and start-up funding; and 47 percent cited partnership with mentors.

Succi said that medical schools should not only implement innovation tracks but also make them mandatory.

“Medical schools are phenomenal at teaching the fundamentals of disease processes and pathophysiology,” he said in a statement. “But what’s missing is: When you have an idea, how do you translate that from your head to concept to paper to patient?”