SHOPS Plus and key stakeholders gathered at the Innovations in Healthcare Annual Forum in Washington, D.C. last month to discuss the importance of innovation, with the theme “From Innovation to Integration.” SHOPS Plus private sector specialist April Warren shared some of the project’s work on a panel entitled “But are we really sure it works?: Creating Data-Driven Evidence to Measure Health Innovation Outcomes.”
The forum, which brings together experts and professionals working on innovative projects, is part of Innovations in Healthcare’s mission to improve healthcare worldwide by supporting the scale and impact of promising innovations. Warren’s panel touched on three key points: translating data into information, keeping indicators simple, and quantity versus quality.
“The private sector is a great source of innovation,” Warren said following the event. “Through the SHOPS Plus project’s work, we are continually looking for ways we can identify and support innovative models so that we can ultimately reach more people with critical health services in a sustainable fashion.”
Warren discussed some of the challenges the community faces in measuring results from investments in innovation, which include the time it takes for innovations to scale, and striking the right balance between the data that funders are looking for and what the innovators can reasonably use and collect. As part of the discussion, Warren drew from her experience managing the HANSHEP Health Enterprise Fund (HEF) under the SHOPS Plus predecessor project.
The HEF was a USAID- and DFID-supported challenge fund that identified and supported 16 private enterprises with innovative healthcare solutions in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Nigeria. The program provided grant funding, technical assistance, and facilitated connections to onward investors and other partners. SHOPS Plus is conducting a longitudinal study that follows these original grantees to understand how they have increased access to family planning products and services, which was one of the initial goals of the fund. By continuing to track progress through this study, Warren explained how we have been able to see how relatively small, catalytic financing for early-stage innovations can expand access. The study has shown steady growth in the number of patients the grantees have provided family planning and other critical health services to.
Warren left the audience with three main messages: funders and partners need to be clear about what they seek to achieve through their investments in innovation, building the capacity of innovators in monitoring and evaluation is important, and it is critical to use data to improve the effectiveness of models for supporting healthcare innovations.