Innovation – who owns it?

I’m back from HIMSS16 and the sensory overload of Vegas. Like every year, the conference and exhibit hall was filled with new vendors and products. Trying to find the really new, new that is a breakout canstockphoto19831405innovation can be a challenge with thousands of exhibitors. I expect to soon read many post HIMSS articles that will highlight the new innovations and the promising start-ups there.

The HX360 program was co-developed by HIMSS and AVIA, an innovation partner for more than 20 forward-leaning health systems. The program is an attempt to carve out during HIMSS an innovation focus for senior leaders. This year I attended the one-day HX360 Executive Program.

The highlight for me was a panel of CEOs and Chief Innovation Officers from leading health care organizations – Providence Health and Services, Dignity Health, Christiana Care and University Health Network in Canada. The panelists were forward thinking health care leaders and organizations. Their messages were “if you are standing still you will get run over” and “innovation is not optional.” Another was that collaboration around innovation has to be top of mind for organizations.

The HX360 Innovation Pavilion included more than 75 start-up companies with disruptive technology, focused on 4 main areas:

  • Patient as Consumer
  • Chronic Care / Behavioral Health
  • Long Term / Post-Acute Care
  • Operations 2.0

As part of the executive program I participated in a roundtable discussion called “Organizational Agility: How Do You Structure for Innovation Success?” We explored how to structure the executive team, program management, and implementation teams to move innovation forward more effectively. We discussed who should lead innovation and where should the innovation team report, which can be a challenge. Do you set up a “them vs. us” situation or work to partner with operations and IT?

Froedtert Health CEO, Cathy Jacobson, described how they created a separate organization, Inception Health, for innovation giving it a safe space while ensuring it was related to the organization’s core strategy. Their criteria for innovation projects are:

  • can they deliver?
  • is it truly something new?
  • was it defined by customers?
  • does it demonstrate value that customers would actually pay for?
  • and does it have a champion from inside the organization?

At the roundtable, Dr. Rasu Shrestha, Chief Innovation Officer at UPMC, was very clear that innovation takes a team. It is not one person’s job. He said that no one holds a patent on innovation; it happens across the organization. He said the innovation function may be the tip of the spear but the rest of the organization is the living lab.

IT professionals with technology expertise work with users on the front lines of health care. They understand the challenges their users face. Those IT professionals may resent it when an innovation team from elsewhere in the organization calls them in late needing help with integration to core systems or to scale a new innovation up to industrial strength. Innovation teams need to involve IT early on.

At University Hospitals, Dr. Marco Costa was named VP and Chief Innovation Officer in early 2015. As part of my “meet and greet” discussions as the new interim CIO, I’ll be meeting with Marco next week. I hope to learn about his organization and their current efforts. Together we will figure out how IT can best partner with them to bring new innovations forward for our staff and patients.

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