Innovation Reports: A New Way to Change Thinking and Practice through Scholarship

By Mary Beth DeVilbiss, Managing Editor, Academic Medicine

When you submit a paper to Academic Medicine, the periodic status updates you see in Editorial Manager as your manuscript passes through the peer review process don’t fully reflect the long hours and careful consideration the external reviewers and editorial staff put into the decision making process for each submission. Some decisions are straightforward—a longitudinal, multi-institution study or a rigorous, well-crafted scholarly article addressing a pressing issue facing the entire academic medicine community can clearly provide evidence for changing thinking and practice on a large scale.

Often, though, the decision is more complicated. What if a paper describes an intervention that is unquestionably innovative and has the potential to change thinking, but the intervention is too new to show long-term outcomes? What if a new program or curriculum is having great success in one department, but with just a single study site, its generalizability is limited? How do we disseminate these early-stage ideas in a scholarly way to help incubate innovation and share the most up-to-date strategies for facing common challenges?

Recognizing the need to quickly disseminate ideas that have the potential to improve the quality of health care and better integrate the systems of medical education, research, and clinical care, Dr. Sklar has announced a new type of article: innovation reports. These submissions may offer new ideas for teaching, thinking, organizing care, communicating, analyzing information, or managing medical schools or teaching hospitals. They may describe disruptive products, innovative ways of disseminating innovations, incremental quality improvements, or new methodologies and analytic approaches to problems. Importantly, they must challenge how we think about ideas and problems.

Innovation reports go through the same rigorous peer review process as traditional research reports and scholarly articles to ensure that accepted submissions make a significant contribution to the literature and meet our publication criteria. Submissions must be no more than 2,000 words (not including the abstract or references), so they must be limited in scope to focus exclusively on describing the innovation in question. The abstract and text must be organized under the headings Problem, Approach, Outcomes, and Next Steps. Submissions must have no more than five references and three exhibits.

We hope that this new feature will allow us to engage with our authors and readers in an exciting new way. Facilitating the communication and adoption of innovative ideas has always been one of our goals, but innovation reports enable us to publish promising ideas much earlier in the process in an effort to encourage these ideas to spread, be adapted and improved, and contribute to future thinking and practice.

The first innovation reportsare available online ahead of print now and will be published in the October issue. One outlines an effective quality improvement initiative based in interprofessional continuing education. The other presents data from one department to build knowledge around a new and pertinent research question. Both are excellent examples of successful small-scale ideas that can inform similar efforts elsewhere. Let us know what you think of this new type of submission, and be sure to spread the word!