Technological innovation is why many CIOs decide to pursue a career in healthcare technology. But the question has shifted in recent years from what to innovate to how to innovate -- particularly in an environment dominated by regulatory standards.
Regulatory and financial pressures, combined with the ultimate goal of delivering quality care, can make it inherently tough to innovate.
There's a flipside, however.
"In healthcare, it's often the regulatory changes and constraints that create the opportunities," said Elliot Menschik, the managing director of DreamIT Health, a health IT startup accelerator. "Regulations often change how we behave. Healthcare is a heavily regulated industry, but the regulations can create a roadmap for new entrances into the market."
InformationWeek Healthcare spoke with four industry leaders in innovation to explore how to successfully innovate in today's changing industry.
Foster A Culture Of Innovation
Utah-based Intermountain Healthcare, the largest healthcare provider in the intermountain west, has a longstanding tradition of innovative culture, said Fred Holston, Intermountain's CTO. If an organization puts emphasis on the value of innovation throughout the entire system, employees -- from nurses to doctors to IT pros -- are more likely to speak out about and push for innovative ideas. At Intermountain, physicians, nurses and caregivers across the board provide innovative input. Collaboration and inclusion are key to fostering an innovative culture.
Part of creating an innovative culture is asking the right questions: What does a good idea look like? What is the hypothesis? How do we test this? How do we know who the target is?
"Inventors need to know where to go and what to do to test the idea," said Todd Dunn, director of innovation at Intermountain. "It's a system like Six Sigma but completely different on the innovation side."
Intermountain's recent innovative successes include integrating emergency aircrafts' in-flight medical records into the emergency department's electronic health record (EHR). The medical records in the emergency aircrafts previously weren't charted. The information is not only transmitted to the EHR, but also incorporated into Intermountain's data analytics.
Provide An Innovative Space Separate From Day-To-Day Operations
Innovation is most often stunted by financial constraints and can be the first thing to go when a department is looking to cut corners. Developing a stand-alone innovative space can protect projects from these types of financial limitations.
"In that tough of an environment, you have to set it aside and have it somewhat protected," said Larry Stofko, executive VP of the Innovation Lab at the Innovation Institute. The Innovation Institute is a California-based organization that focuses solely on innovation. "Some people treat strategy and innovation as heavy luggage on a ship. When tough times come, those are the first things people throw overboard."
Enterprises and organizations like Intermountain's Healthcare Transformation Lab, The Innovation Institute and DreamIT have all taken this approach, and it's paid off.