3 Ways To Foster Healthcare Innovation

As some organizations struggle to innovate in today's complex regulatory landscape, others forge ahead.
Intermountain launched its Healthcare Transformation Lab in August. The lab is devoted entirely to healthcare innovation. The lab is partnering with Intel, Dell and Sotera Wireless, among others, to develop the next iteration of healthcare technology.

"In the healthcare industry, our job is to take care of patients," Dunn said. "We're very focused on positive outcomes, and sometimes that doesn't leave as much room for thinking way outside the boxes."

The goal is for a lab devoted entirely to innovation to break that barrier.

California-based St. Joseph's Health took a similar approach, investing $40 million in the Innovation Institute, a for-profit institute comprised of an innovation lab, an enterprise development group and a growth fund. The institute is owned by seven nonprofit health systems. The lab is the innovation incubator where technology is created. The development group works with hospitals to increase revenue and the growth fund invests in emerging innovative companies.

"St. Joseph's set innovation outside of the organization to make sure it would be protected," Stofko said. "Innovation should be collaborative. It shouldn't be in a strategic planning or marketing department. We feel innovation is more powerful when shared among organizations."

DreamIT fosters innovation by creating a nurturing space for health tech startups. It's essentially a three-month boot camp for startups looking to get a foot in the door. Companies selected to participate are matched with a mentor, usually a successful healthcare entrepreneur. They receive free legal and accounting advice, and learn from a vigorous healthcare-tailored curriculum. The goal is to encourage risk-taking.

"It's hard being a startup in any industry, especially when selling into the enterprise as opposed to consumer-facing products," Menschik said. "You're dealing with large organizations that take a while to make a decision and purchase a product."

Healthcare companies are especially risk-averse, making it difficult for startups to break in. DreamIT partners with Independent Blue Cross Blue Shield and University of Pennsylvania Medicine to build a foundation for those corporate-startup relationships.

Stat, a startup that is developing on-demand non-emergency ambulatory transport, participated in the DreamIT program. It's similar to Uber, an on-demand taxi service app, but for medical transport. It's intended for patients being discharged from a hospital or for transport from a nursing home to a dialysis center. DreamIT not only provided Stat with the resources to build the software for Web and mobile apps, but also helped connect the company with customers in the Philadelphia market.

Assemble An Innovative Leadership Team

Forward-thinking leaders signify an organization's commitment to innovation.

"The leadership piece is very important," Stofko said. "It shows it's not just a pet project, but something the organization is willing to put some strong people on. It sends a message."

The Innovation Institute brought over the top leaders from St. Joseph's, including St. Joseph's former COO, CIO and senior VP.

About a year ago, Penn Medicine hired a chief innovation officer, Roy Rosin.

"Roy has brought in a spirit of innovative thinking across the enterprise," said Michael Restuccia, the VP and CIO at Penn Medicine. "It reinforces the concept of innovation."

Penn launched an organization-wide innovation competition called Your Big Idea, open to all employees. Employees submit their ideas for improvements in patient care, cost reductions and operational improvements. The winning ideas of 2012's competition supported an online scheduling system for physician visits and kiosk technology in ambulatory clinics to streamline registration and check-in.

"You have to have a balance," Restuccia said. "There has to be a percentage of innovative efforts to keep things moving forward and balanced with the run-and-maintain efforts. When you structure in that manner, you can remain compliant [with] audits and regulations."

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