15 innovation leaders’ most interesting thoughts on health IT in 2020

By Katie Adams for Becker’s Hospital Review

The pandemic has spurred innovation in the health IT space during 2020, as hospitals and health systems find new ways to optimize workflows, use data to improve care delivery and connect patients to healthcare providers virtually.

Below are 15 quotes about innovation in health IT that hospital and health system innovation leaders shared with Becker’s Hospital Review in 2020:

Adrienne Boissy, MD, chief experience officer at Cleveland Clinic: You know, technology applied en masse, doesn’t work for the populations we most need to reach right now. Taking the time to invest in understanding both the patients that you serve, who are they? Who are their personas? Why don’t they use virtual? What would they rather use? Do they need a phone call? Understanding their preferences around access and trust and what empathy feels like for them is a space I really don’t know that we’ve spent enough time in.

Alistair Erskine, MD, chief digital health officer, Mass General Brigham (Boston): Virtual is the new black, and data is king. Those are some of the lessons that came out from the pandemic, and that is helping us think through how we improve the convenience of the healthcare services we provide for the patient. How do we better tune artificial intelligence in an unbiased way toward all patients we take care of so that we can help with decision-making? How do we drive the decision-making going forward, especially in real time, as it was necessary during COVID to be able to get a situational awareness of what is going on when resources are getting tight?

Chris Coburn, chief innovation officer, Mass General Brigham: Know your organization. Its people and culture will be the source, enablers and, at times, obstacles to innovation. Clarify at outset definition, aspirations and rewards for innovation. Build the innovation community — engage all stakeholders, stay with them and continually grow it, especially by discipline, age, gender and race. Assemble, develop and retain a skilled innovation team that prizes execution, understands markets and is willing to take risks. Invest sufficient resources and time to be successful in a fluid and complex environment. Create operational systems and policies to measure, drive and learn from outcomes. Study, seek and advocate for innovation wherever it is found. Educate, overcommunicate and celebrate successes. It’s about the patients.

Aaron Martin, executive vice president and chief digital officer at Providence (Renton, Wash.): Health systems and integrated delivery networks are going to have to become very consumer-friendly in their digital footprint. They’re going to have some very aggressive competitors move into the space, and COVID-19 has accelerated that. If you talked to me about a year and a half ago, I was going door to door to these health systems and saying, “We don’t have a whole lot of time to get our act together from a digital consumer standpoint because big tech companies and great, smaller tech companies are coming in and they’re going to be offering really compelling digital experiences for your commercial patient population, which is what funds your entire business. So if you don’t do a great job, somebody else will.”

Eduardo Conrado, executive vice president and chief strategy and innovation officer, Ascension Health (St. Louis): It’s important to differentiate between innovation and disruption. There are many innovative tools coming into the healthcare space to improve the delivery of care for the patients and communities we are privileged to serve. We need to be innovative in finding or creating these solutions to anticipate and respond to the needs of patients, but also key is our ability to scale innovations quickly across our entire health ministry. That’s when disruption happens and can truly help us in sustaining and improving the health of individuals and communities.

Peter Fleischut, MD, senior vice president and chief transformation officer at New York-Presbyterian Hospital (New York City): Technology is not value-neutral. In the adoption of technology, it is our role as leaders to make sure it doesn’t worsen care or worsen disparities. It should reduce disparities, and it should improve care. So I think it’s important, as we adopt technology, to think about that.

Michelle Stansbury, vice president of IT innovation, Houston Methodist: There was a huge mind-shift for the health system when we developed the innovation hub because most hospitals and organizations have a ‘must be perfect’ mentality and never want to give up; the idea is that you keep trying until you get it right. That wasn’t our model. We either have to succeed fast or fail fast. We innovate in 30-, 60- and 90-day cycles.

Megan Ranney, MD, director, Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health (Providence, R.I.): We think about innovation as occurring when you facilitate collisions of ideas, hopes and frustrations among a wide cross section of people. So the idea of innovation is that you take ideas or possibilities from disparate segments of society, bring them together and create novel solutions, things that would not have existed, were those ideas or frustrations existing in isolation. Innovation should be something that is collaborative, that really pushes the boundaries and also that hopefully works. Although, we’re big subscribers to the idea that you can also fail fast and that sometimes it’s through failure that you create the most impactful ideas.

Omkar Kulkarni, chief innovation officer at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles: If you’re looking to jumpstart the innovation process in your organization, this concept of not just a traditional hackathon, but a reverse-pitch hackathon can be really impactful. It’s an efficient, effective and replicable way of navigating and starting that innovation life cycle.

Omer Awan, chief data and digital officer at Atrium Health (Charlotte, N.C.): There is tremendous necessity and opportunity associated with the role of AI in healthcare. It can automate image diagnosis, preliminary diagnosis, help reduce dosage errors, detect fraud, and provide great value with robot-assisted surgeries and virtual nursing assistants. This frees up time for the caregivers so they can practice at the top of their licenses.

Todd Dunn, vice president of innovation, Atrium Health: One of my most important priorities is clarifying the focus of our innovation effort. I don’t believe you need a massive innovation team to create a culture of innovation; I think you need one that is extremely focused. The second one is to put a system in place that can drive the culture to be far more consumer-centric and evidence-based throughout innovation. The third one, scaling. The mindset and skillset and tool set of innovation.

Peter Kung, chief innovation officer, SCL Health (Broomfield, Colo.): Take and leverage the great things about your EHR and extend that to a higher layer — where you can create, combine non-EHR features and drive the unique experiences you want your patients to have. For example, companies like Amazon and Walmart both have apps where you can buy many of the same products, including common shopping capabilities such as the shopping cart, check out, taking a credit card and delivery options. The difference is that Amazon is combining distinct and ‘table stake’ features in a way of delivering a unique value proposition: making the online experience 10 times better than the in-store experience.

Manoja Lecamwasam, system vice president of intellectual property, life sciences & device and strategic innovation at CommonSpirit Health (Chicago): I think one of the biggest issues of having precision medicine or personalized medicine in sequencing and genomics in community hospitals like we are serving is that it’s always happened at research institutions or it has been experimental in research. But 80 percent of care happens within the communities and the interaction between the physicians and the patients is the most important act in healthcare and it needs to get to that interaction, and the way that happens is community hospitals and non-academic hospitals and medical centers start to look at these innovations and incorporate that into care.

Kathy Azeez-Narain, chief digital officer, Hoag Hospital (Newport Beach, Calif.): While EHR technology is a capable platform and it delivers what it needs to from a medical record perspective, I would say one gap that they need to tackle is applying human interaction design to the product. The experience still feels like it’s coming from a technology place and not necessarily the person using it. It definitely gives providers easy access to critical information but from the patient/consumer lens it has gaps.

Tony Ambrozie, senior vice president and chief digital officer, Baptist Health South Florida (Miami): Technology must work for our customers, not the other way around. Start with the customer — needs, services, experiences and interactions — and walk back to what the technology needs to be and how it would work and work well. Customer engagement really requires being where the customer is and wants to be.

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