Transforming Healthcare: Cultivating a Culture of Innovation

Rick Newell

Rick Newell , MD, MPH

Chief Transformation Officer

Published June 25, 2019

Lightbulb depicting Vituity's culture of innovation

What do 3D printing of soft tissues, telehealth, and population screening for rare diseases have in common? One word: innovation.

Across the industry, healthcare is evolving at an unprecedented pace — from caring for an aging population with multiple comorbidities to a shifting focus on wellness and prevention. Now is the time for innovation and transformation in order to keep pace with the tidal wave of change.

Forward-thinking healthcare organizations understand that business as usual will no longer suffice:

  • The Cleveland Clinic has a commercialization arm that turns medical breakthrough inventions of its caregivers into patient-benefiting medical products and companies.
  • At the Mayo Clinic’s Center for Innovation, the team has devoted more than 10,000 hours with patients in the context of over 270 projects to identify gaps and challenges in order to transform care experiences.
  • Geisinger's Steele Institute for Healthcare Innovation supports community-based projects that contain costs and improve healthcare quality and access.
  • Companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon are partnering with healthcare companies to create new technologies and delivery models.

Vituity was founded upon innovation 40 years ago when our founders saw a better way to practice emergency medicine. They brought emergency physicians together as owners in their practice and provided central resources to support them while giving them local autonomy to establish a practice that met the needs of the community and hospital.

Vituity has responded to the need to integrate care across the continuum by adding new practice lines, including anesthesiology, critical care medicine, acute psychiatry and hospital medicine, among others. Our acute psychiatric medicine and telehealth programs specifically address challenges with timely access to care.

Over the years, as Vituity grew, it responded to market needs by establishing new innovations such as our signature ED care process Rapid Medical Evaluation (RME), which is now used in EDs across the country. We also developed our own management services organization and our billing company.

Obstacles to Innovation

While innovation can breathe new life into an organization, there are barriers that can hinder even the best efforts.

As Bill Gates is fond of saying,

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”

It is a natural tendency for companies to focus on existing business lines and practices that have had long-term success rather than investing enough in responding to changes in the market and in innovation in new lines of business.

In addition, healthcare providers are naturally risk-averse when it comes to adopting new practices. Compounding the issue is the fact that the majority of healthcare providers are extremely time-pressed today, so learning and adopting new systems, new methods of care, or new devices often takes a backseat to delivering patient care.

Finally, innovation is important to executives. The returns in the market for successfully implementing wide-scale innovation are proven. However, executives seem unsure of how to go about it. According to a 2015 Sentiment Survey conducted by Insigniam, 57 percent of all executives said that in their efforts to spread innovation throughout their enterprise, they were not doing well, not doing enough, or still trying to figure it out. And the other 43 percent said they are only doing OK.

Innovative Healthcare: Making It Happen

It has been said that healthcare will evolve more over the next 10 years than it has in the prior 100 years. Only time will tell whether or not that is true. But what is clear is that most large, successful organizations have innovation as a key component of their strategy. They understand that the only way to survive in today’s volatile environment is to innovate effectively.

The key is “effectively,” because innovation and transformation don’t just happen. Innovation is more than simply brainstorming ideas or talking about changing how we do things. It requires prioritization, resources, leadership, and time. Achieving success in innovation and transformation require these key components:

  • Recognizing that innovation is different: Typically, innovative companies insulate core innovators from core business operations and allow them to create an ecosystem in which innovation thrives.
  • Taking risks and recognizing failures as successes: When individuals are not afraid of failure, they feel empowered to take risks and accomplish amazing things.
  • Embracing how technology is changing healthcare: Big data, predictive analytics, telehealth, and health IT apps have massively changed the way healthcare is delivered. When applicable to our business lines, we must embrace technology and position ourselves on the cutting edge of healthcare technology.

Another way for healthcare systems to respond to the rapidly changing environment and position themselves for the future is to contract with innovative providers. That partnership ensures that there is a strategy in place to stay ahead of the curve — to skate where the puck is going to be, not where it is now.

Innovation in Action

Projecting where the market is headed and what the organization’s future needs will be can be a bit like looking into a crystal ball. At Vituity, we’ve found that listening to our customers — patients, health systems, payers, and physicians — provides very important insights that uncover problems in care delivery and identify solutions.

In fact, our organization has a formal program to nurture new ideas that can be replicated across our client sites. Vituity’s Innovation Grants support joint quality improvement projects between Vituity and our client hospitals. Recently, Innovation Grants have supported the establishment of:

  • A concussion clinic for athletes at rural high schools
  • Real-time patient satisfaction monitoring for EDs
  • A safer, more efficient tracking system for ED blood culture orders
  • Navigator programs that provide care coordination for complex patients

In addition, Vituity is partnering with several technology companies to work on products and tools that will disrupt care delivery and improve the experience for patients and providers.

As an organization founded upon innovation, we’re thrilled that we now have two leadership roles to guide our strategic planning and transformation efforts: a Chief Innovation Officer and a Chief Transformation Officer. A transformation team comprised of a cross-section of physicians and others from our organization supports these officers.

Across industries, innovation is linked with long-term success. The imperative to think and do things differently is just as relevant in healthcare. Over the past few decades, there have been significant advances in medicine. There is clearly an opportunity to do more. And the possibilities are endless.

Last updated June 19, 2019.

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