Evaluating a patient safety learning laboratory to create an interdisciplinary ecosystem for health care innovation

Health Care Manage Rev. 2022 Jul-Sep;47(3):E50-E61. doi: 10.1097/HMR.0000000000000330. Epub 2022 Feb 3.


Background: In response to the complexity, challenges, and slow pace of innovation, health care organizations are adopting interdisciplinary team approaches. Systems engineering, which is oriented to creating new, scalable processes that perform with higher reliability and lower costs, holds promise for driving innovation in the face of challenges to team performance. A patient safety learning laboratory (lab) can be an essential aspect of fostering interdisciplinary team innovation across multiple projects and organizations by creating an ecosystem focused on deploying systems engineering methods to accomplish process redesign.

Purpose: We sought to identify the role and activities of a learning ecosystem that support interdisciplinary team innovation through evaluation of a patient safety learning lab.

Methods: Our study included three participating learning lab project teams. We applied a mixed-methods approach using a convergent design that combined data from qualitative interviews of team members conducted as teams neared the completion of their redesign projects, as well as evaluation questionnaires administered throughout the 4-year learning lab.

Results: Our results build on learning theories by showing that successful learning ecosystems continually create alignment between interdisciplinary teams' activities, organizational context, and innovation project objectives. The study identified four types of alignment, interpersonal/interprofessional, informational, structural, and processual, and supporting activities for alignment to occur.

Conclusion: Interdisciplinary learning ecosystems have the potential to foster health care improvement and innovation through alignment of team activities, project goals, and organizational contexts.

Practice implications: This study applies to interdisciplinary teams tackling multilevel system challenges in their health care organization and suggests that the work of such teams benefits from the four types of alignment. Alignment on all four dimensions may yield best results.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Ecosystem*
  • Humans
  • Patient Care Team*
  • Patient Safety
  • Reproducibility of Results