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Diffusion of Innovation in Health Care Diffusion of Innovation in Health Care

by Mary Cain, Robert Mittman
California HealthCare Foundation ()


This report presents the basics of innovation diffusion: the stages of adoption, including the typical “S” curve, and the types of individuals who adopt the innovation at different stages. The ten critical dynamics of innovation diffusion are explored: 1. Relative advantage. The more potential the value or benefit anticipated from adoption of the innovation relative to current practice, the more rapidly it will diffuse. 2. Trialability. The ability to try out an innova- tion without total commitment and with minimal investment improves the prospects for adoption and diffusion. 3. Observability. The extent to which potential adopters can witness the adoption of an innovation by others improves its prospects for diffusion. 4. Communications channels. The paths through which opinion leaders and others communicate about an innovation affect the pace and pattern of diffusion. 5. Homophilous groups. Innovations spread faster among homophilous groups (those with similar characteristics) than among hetero- philous groups (those that differ in important ways). 6. Pace of innovation/reinvention. Some innovations are relatively stable and do not evolve much while they diffuse. Others evolve much more rapidly and are altered by users along the way. 7. Norms, roles, and social networks. Innova- tions are shaped by the rules, formal hierarchies, and informal mechanisms of communication operative in the social systems in which they diffuse. 8. Opinion leaders. Individuals whose opinions are respected (or even just listened to) by others in a population affect the pace of diffusion. 9. Compatibility. The ability of an innovation to coexist with technologies and social pat- terns already in place improves the prospects for adoption/diffusion. 10. Infrastructure. The adoption of many inno- vations depends on the presence of some form of infrastructure or of other technolo- gies that cluster with the innovation. The dynamics that govern the adoption (or lack of adoption) of new medical and information technologies in the health care industry are com- plex. This report is intended to help those frus- trated with the pace of adoption to understand how diffusion works and how to affect the pace and style of diffusion in their own organizations. Diffusion

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