The Department of Health in the Innovation Health and Wealth Report define innovation as follows:
An idea, service or product, new to the NHS or applied in a way that is new to the NHS, which significantly improves the quality of health and care wherever it is applied.
Innovation has to be more than a simple improvement in performance, and to achieve its maximum added value to the NHS it needs to be replicable - and replicated - across similar settings. So innovation is as much about applying an idea, service or product in a new context, or in a new organisation, as it is about creating something entirely new. Copying is good.
This does not necessarily mean simply adding to existing processes or practice or to the battery of diagnostic tests available - there is an important role for 'reverse innovation - decommissioning an activity that is shown to have no added value or that has been replaced by something new or better.
Innovation is not just about the originating idea, but also the whole process of the successful development, implementation and spread of the idea into widespread use. There are three important stages:
INVENTION - The originating idea for a new service or product, or a new way of providing a service
ADOPTION - Putting the new idea, product or service into practice, including prototyping, piloting, testing and evaluating its safety and effectiveness
DIFFUSION - The systematic uptake of the idea, service or product into widespread use across the whole service.