Open innovation facilitates department-wide engagement in quality improvement: experience from the Massachusetts General Hospital

Surg Endosc. 2021 Oct;35(10):5441-5449. doi: 10.1007/s00464-020-08028-y. Epub 2020 Oct 8.


Background: Quality improvement (QI) initiatives commonly originate 'top-down' from senior leadership, as staff engagement is often sporadic. We describe our experience with a technology-enabled open innovation contest to encourage participation from multiple stakeholders in a Department of Surgery (DoS) to solicit ideas for QI. We aimed to stimulate engagement and to assist DoS leadership in prioritizing QI initiatives.

Methods: Observational study of a process improvement. The process had five phases: anonymous online submission of ideas by frontline staff; anonymous online crowd-voting to rank ideas on a scale whether the DoS should implement each idea (1 = No, 3 = Maybe, 5 = Yes); ideas with scores ≥ 95th percentile were invited to submit implementation plans; plans were reviewed by a multi-disciplinary panel to select a winning idea; an award ceremony celebrated the completion of the contest.

Results: 152 ideas were submitted from 95 staff (n = 850, 11.2%). All Divisions (n = 12) and all staff roles (n = 12) submitted ideas. The greatest number of ideas were submitted by faculty (27.6%), patient service coordinators (18.4%), and residents (17.8%). The most common QI category was access to care (20%). 195 staff (22.9%) cast 3559 votes. The mean score was 3.5 ± 0.5. 10 Ideas were objectively invited to submit implementation plans. One idea was awarded a grand prize of funding, project management, and leadership buy-in.

Conclusion: A web-enabled open innovation contest was successful in engaging faculty, residents, and other critical role groups in QI. It also enabled the leadership to re-affirm a positive culture of inclusivity, maintain an open-door policy, and also democratically vet and prioritize solutions for quality improvement.

Keywords: Crowd-source; Innovation; Leadership; Quality; Safety; Technology.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Hospitals, General*
  • Humans
  • Leadership
  • Massachusetts
  • Quality Improvement*