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Healthcare Innovation Doesn't Happen Overnight

Intel-GE Care Innovations CEO: When it comes to technological innovation and advancement, healthcare IT leaders would do well to take a page from Intel's book.

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Louis Burns, CEO of , a joint venture of Intel and General Electric, believes healthcare CIOs could learn a lot from the computer chip maker when it comes to technological advancement.

"Sometimes people think innovation is a divine thing that comes to them on long bike rides, or in the shower, or while out jogging," said Burns, who spent more than two decades at Intel, including a stint as CIO, before taking over the Care Innovations venture. The venture launched in 2011 as the combination of the Digital Health Group of Intel -- which Burns headed -- and the Home Health Division of GE Healthcare.

While such "eureka moments" do occasionally occur, they're not the norm. More often, innovation is more about going through a series of iterations, Burns told InformationWeek Healthcare.

Burns reported spending last year thinking the caregiver aspect was missing from some of Care Innovations' remote patient monitoring technology, so the Roseville, Calif.-based venture convened more user groups and ran more tests. "You start to iterate and refine," Burns said.

[ Boston Consulting Group is bullish on the state of innovation and growth. Read more at Innovation In Spotlight, But Wrong Cast? ]

For years Intel has followed what Burns called the "BUT" model of product design, which includes business, usage, and technology. "You have to have all three to have successful innovation," Burns said.

Likewise, Burns added, people who want to innovate should pay attention to three ideas. First, understand what the user wants. "You have to start with the user," he said, echoing comments he made Tuesday during a keynote address to Institute for Health Technology Transformation health IT conference Chandler, Ariz.

That's how Intel developed the tablet-based communications hub and social networking tool for seniors now called Care Innovations Guide. "The thing we are most proud of is that an 85-year-old person can walk up to it and sit down at it and drive it," Burns said.

The second idea, Burns said, is to understand that ideas can come from anywhere, so CIOs and other innovators should pay attention. "Be aware of innovation elsewhere. Innovation does not have borders or boundaries in that it's not restricted to a single place. There is innovation going on around the planet."

The third idea is optimization of workflow processes. "Here's how we are going to adjust and have users as an integral part of design," Burns explained. "It's not sexy, but it really is about change management. Most innovations, I would argue, fail at step three."

As an example, Burns said, before the holidays he spent a full day with 16 people at all levels of healthcare leadership, including physicians, nurses, administrators and CIOs. The group was trying to figure out how to implement large-scale patient monitoring outside the walls of the hospital or clinic -- specifically, in the home -- in an effort to get the optimization part right.

"The definition of where care is going to happen is really changing," Burns noted. With that, so will some of the rules. For example, how will healthcare organizations protect patient privacy for care delivered at home and over the Internet? "I think CIOs have an incredibly cool job," Burns said. "It's a very hard job, but a very cool job for a lot of reasons."

For one thing, he said, CIOs can be enablers of healthcare transformation. That idea may seem daunting. CIOs have been up to their eyeballs in major projects of late, including installing electronic health records (EHRs) in pursuit of Meaningful Use dollars, converting to Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) X12 version 5010 electronic transaction standards, preparing for the switch to ICD-10 coding in 2014, and helping to prepare for the age of accountable care.

"The scope of what [CIOs] are trying to do is changing," Burns said. Bundled payments, a key to accountable care organizations (ACOs) and wider healthcare reform under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, requires collaboration among many elements, including primary care physicians, imaging services, laboratory work, and transitions between care sites. "Information has to flow across disparate systems that don't talk to each other," Burns said.

Instead of viewing accountable care as just another task to add to the voluminous laundry list, Burns recommended framing it in different terms: "It's an opportunity to make us a better hospital."

"It's how you orient your head about it," Burns said. "If you start with, 'Why not?' you hardly ever get to where you need to go."

Clinical, patient engagement, and consumer apps promise to re-energize healthcare. Also in the new, all-digital Mobile Power issue of InformationWeek Healthcare: Comparative effectiveness research taps the IT toolbox to compare treatments to determine which ones are most effective. (Free registration required.)

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User Rank: Author
1/18/2013 | 11:12:57 PM
re: Healthcare Innovation Doesn't Happen Overnight
Good perspective, Neil -- healthcare is building this massive new tech infrastructure, now it needs to learn how to wring all the value out of the investment. I wonder if there's things it could learn from other industries that have lived through their own revolutions of cost-cutting and quality improvement.
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