Social innovations are the centre of attention because the barriers to lasting growth can only be overcome due to it. This time we showcase 8 inspiring social innovations in healthcare. Why healthcare? Innovations in the healthcare industry are improving quality of life for patients and practitioners.

A well-structured and organised healthcare system is an indicator of the level of satisfaction and commitment between citizens and governmental organisations. Aside from that, a healthcare system can help us characterise a whole community. The way people live and grow up points to a society’s efficiencies across different sectors.

Unfortunately, since severe illnesses such as cancer and sexually transmitted diseases continue to show a rapid increase on a global level, we definitely have to find solutions to improve our well-being.

Enter the role of Social Innovation. Keep in mind that the smallest change can make a big difference; in other words, the nature of innovation is to rethink and revise, so it’s a story with endless possibilities. This point of view can inspire all of us to follow and contribute to entrepreneurial social innovations in healthcare. If you’re interested in participating and becoming more familiar with such initiatives, you’re welcome to join our team!

Below, we highlight just some of the significant social innovations taking place within the healthcare field.


Hitachi: Social Innovation in Healthcare

‘The future of Healthcare is being transformed across the globe. In the last 5 years, the focus has been on integrated services and adding value around the product or device. What has emerged now in 2015 and will continue into 2020 and beyond is the digital experience of the patient. This is crucial as the patient of today is different compared to 15-20 years ago.’ (European Union, Hitachi)

‘In the past 20 years, Hitachi has worked with university research and cancer treatment centres to invest in and improve proton beam therapy (PBT). Its therapy systems have advanced to the point where even irregularly shaped tumours can be targeted (without damaging the surrounding healthy tissue) and tracked in real time so the high-power beams are not interrupted by the patient’s respiratory movements. The most significant development, though, is that it will not cause the patient unnecessary distress – amazing when you consider most cancer patients feel the battle is as much with the treatment as with the illness.’  [You can find out more here]

The team at Hitachi believes that the potential of social innovation in healthcare is enormous. Health, wellness and well-being are some of the most fundamental areas for Social Innovation Business.

It can have a strong impact on people’s lives, especially for those who live in parts of the world where access to healthcare is limited. At the same time, their main aim is to reduce the cost of healthcare globally.


The algorithm that can prevent the spread of HIV among homeless youth

‘Homelessness affects about 2 million people between the ages of 13 and 24 every year in the United States — 11% of whom are HIV-positive. But researchers at the University of Southern California’s Schools of Social Work and Engineering developed a new algorithm called PSINET, which uses artificial intelligence to identify the best person in a specific homeless community to spread important information about HIV prevention among youth.

‘Computer scientists mapped the friendships of homeless teens at a local homeless agency in Los Angeles. The algorithm looks at this network of friendships, and runs through thousands of possibilities for the person with the greatest reach at a certain point in time. That peer leader” can then learn about basic information, like where to get tested for HIV, and in turn provide researchers with more information about the homeless community.

‘According to the researchers, PSINET spread 60% more information to communities than typical word-of-mouth campaigns.’ [Learn more about the algorithm and other such incredible innovations here]


‘The life-saving device that can seal a wound in under a minute’

The following innovative device has proved to be very useful. It seems unbelievable that such a small device can seal a wound under a minute, without the need to visit a hospital or use any other drug.

However, technology continues to evolve and surprise us all.

‘It is a syringe filled with tiny, biocompatible sponges, which can be injected into a deep wound to absorb blood and seal it in less than a minute. While it’s been used on the battlefield since April 2014, it was recently approved by the FDA for civilian use.

‘The surprising thing is that the sponges expand up to 15 times their size when they make contact with blood, which allows them to apply internal pressure to the walls of the wound cavity and block blood flow. The sponges would replace a medic’s traditional method of deeply packing a wound with gauze and maintaining pressure.’ [Find out more about this device and other mind-blowing innovations here]


Social Innovation for Ageing

The ultimate goal of this European project is to create a platform of ideas for social innovations that can tackle the challenges of ageing in today’s societies. ‘This project will map and analyse social innovations as well as underlying patterns in the field of active and healthy ageing. The database collected by all the participating European countries will be analysed regarding patterns, gaps and open questions. 25 cases will be selected for further analysis. The case studies will focus on the innovation process”, the innovation context” and the innovation impacts”. The lessons learnt from the cases will be synthesised in a report and presented at a European conference.

‘The best three social innovations will be awarded with the Social Innovation in Ageing – The European Award.’  [Read more about the project here]


Wheelmap: Easy access to public places (Germany)

At this point, it is necessary to highlight the importance of digital social innovation that combines healthcare systems with innovative technology and electronic data. This coexistence makes a great contribution to the efficiency of social innovation in this specific sector.

‘Across the world, at least 85 million people – and possibly three times this number – are wheelchair users, who have difficulties knowing how accessible places like cafes, train stations, restaurants, libraries and other buildings are. Wheelmap is a map of wheelchair accessibility, available online and as an app and based on the open-source OpenStreetMap. Founded in Germany in 2010 by creative non-profit Sozialhelden (Social Heroes), it now has information on over 750,000 locations across the world, colour-coded to show users whether they are fully, partly or not at all wheelchair-accessible, or unknown.

‘Alongside the map, Sozialhelden has created a set of wheelchair-accessible city tours around Germany and founded other projects including BrokenLifts, which gathers open data from public bodies about out-of-service lifts to inform wheelchair users.’  [Find out more about Wheelmap and other digital social innovations here]


Home Care: E-home Project

‘To date, technology’s impact on keeping seniors in their homes remains small.

‘Through AgeLab’s e-home project, D’Ambrosio and her team studied the effectiveness of a desktop setup that aimed to improve seniors’ adherence to medication regimens. (Fewer than half of seniors keep prescriptions in an open, easy-to-reach area.)

‘The setup included a monitor where patients and caregivers could leave notes, an “information globe” that amounted to a “you’ve got mail” icon and an RFID-enabled medication table.’  [Find out more about the Project and other such initiatives here]

So, the e-home project helps elderly people keep in touch with their relatives and caregivers in a more interesting and effective way than in the past. Patients feel safe as they are notified of a missed dose or given a reminder at the same time as enabling them to enjoy better daily communication with their family.


Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust

E-Health in the Healthcare sector is a demanding challenge in present communities and definitely promises a lot. It will play a key role in addressing the social needs and security uncertainties of patients in the future.

‘More specifically, as regarding telepsychiatry, it uses video-conferencing to deliver mental health services from a distance. This project aims to improve patient satisfaction and reduce costs by trialling telepsychiatry in three ways: to provide senior medical opinion on complex cases; to complete assessments at distance; and to provide follow-up home appointments using patients’ own technology.’  [Find out more about the project here]


The role of social media to improve the patient experience

With the spread of social media and digital capabilities, patients are able to use search engines to research information about their health problems on a daily basis. These resources may prove to be valuable for patients, researchers, policymakers and hospital administrators.

Social networks and online communities could play an important role in consumer health management, serving as hubs where patients and caregivers can meet to ask questions, share information, and compare experiences with treatments and medications.

‘The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions 2015 Survey of US Health Care Consumers found that 52 percent of consumers actively search online for health- or care-related information. Patient-generated content on these digital platforms illustrates the needs, wants, motivations, behaviours, and decision considerations of patients and caregivers.’  [Learn about 10 amazing healthcare innovations here]


These data can be extremely useful for healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies as they try to find ways to improve and efficiently support the patient experience. So, this process can enable healthcare professionals and pharmaceutical companies to enrich their knowledge and appreciation of patients’ preferences and symptoms, as well as their responses to various treatments.

Throughout Europe, we are seeing, from a variety of surveys, a continuous improvement in healthcare systems, in addition to a great deal of attention (and money) being paid to areas such as sexual and mental health.

Healthcare systems need to innovate to continue delivering and improving their services and outcomes. It is absolutely a prerequisite for us all to be constantly informed about such new ideas and innovations. Although some progress has been made in relation to social innovations in healthcare, many countries continue to have basic deficiencies in this sector, which is also due to a lack of knowledge and access to education.


Learn more at Social Innovation Academy

To cover this gap, Foundation and four other partners have launched a project aiming to develop the first online Social Innovation Academy in Europe (Social Innovation Academy) with a focus on key issues in social innovation. Why Social Innovation Academy? It is necessary for entrepreneurs and for people who intend to use social innovation practices to gain a thorough understanding of what social innovation has to offer. If you are interested in following this project, you can subscribe to our newsletter, become one of our Friends, apply to join our Global Advisory Board or follow us on social media (LinkedInTwitter and Facebook). We welcome all requests for collaboration here.


The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsi­ble for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.


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