Innovation at the Center of COVID-19 Health Management

Kathy Malas, adjointe au PDG du CHUM, Pôle d’innovation & d’IA en santé

by Nicolas Sacchetti

The organizational challenges related to managing the COVID-19 pandemic have been colossal. 
The SARS-CoV-2 virus forced organizations to adapt quickly to manage the epidemiological situation. 

Kathy Malas is Assistant CEO and Pole of Innovation and AI in Health at CHUM. She discusses how health innovation, through an agile organizational model, helped CHUM overcome the coronavirus crisis.

"Before COVID-19, there was already a proactive innovation strategy, including AI, in place. This allowed us to be effective during the pandemic, and to adapt in a resilient manner," says Ms. Malas.

At UdeM's RUISSS, Mintzberg's "communityship" is increasingly being promoted. It is the managing model that has enabled the hospital network to improve its response to the pandemic crisis. A collective commitment. Mintzberg defines the community by the social character of humans. "Effective organizations are communities of human beings, not collections of human resources." (Mintzberg, 2015)

Three Pillars of Innovation

  • 1 - Culture of innovation and creativity: "First, we must formulate a clear intention and explain its relevance. Our mission to improve health and well-being of patients is one that stakeholders care about. Our partners both academic and private sectors are driven by this mission," says Malas.
  • 1.1 - Promote leadership at all levels of the organization: This starts with the CEO promoting innovation. Next comes the board of directors followed by managers and work teams. Medical and paramedical professionals work together to develop solutions to problems. Leadership and "communityship" go hand in hand.
  • 1.2 - Incentives: One of the keys to innovation is protected  time dedicated to continuing education, research and knowledge transfer, so that professionals can continue to provide excellent patient care.
  • 2 - Agile organizational structure: "From the conceptualization stage, we have put in place mechanisms to explore problems on a production line, experiment and then integrate solutions into patient care and services," says the scientist. She gives as an example the innovation cycle from idealization with an interdisciplinary team, to integration/commercialization.

"But mechanisms are not enough. We need creative processes to conceptualize and develop flexible management projects like the evidence-based scientific method," says Kathy Malas. These approaches support the innovation cycles of interdisciplinary teams.

  • 2.1 - Measuring value: From conceptualization through experimentation to solution deployment, concrete tools and mechanisms are needed to determine evaluation criteria. This leads to the identification of key assumptions to be made prior to the integration/commercialization stage.
  • 3 - Open innovation ecosystem and network: "Complex problems such as COVID-19 cannot be solved by one organization alone," says the scientist. Cross-sectoral collaboration is emphasized. She cites the Innovators in Residence collaborative innovation program as an example.

Finally, Kathy Malas confides that in the past, these three pillars of innovation were also used to manage Ebola outbreaks.

The event took place May 11 to 13, 2021 during a videoconference as part of the first P4IE Congress on Policies, Process and Practices for Performance of Innovation Ecosystem, presented by the 4POINT0 Partnership for the Organisation of Innovation and New Technologies.

This content has been updated on 2023-06-02 at 16 h 12 min.