Practicing Innovation: Collaborate, Democratize, & Organize

Even as federal regulations and policies shift and healthcare leadership turns over in the Beltway, innovation is dominating healthcare conversations. I’m excited that we’re talking innovation as more than just a concept, but as a practice. Here’s a sampling of the recent innovation conversations:

 Office of National Coordinator (ONC) 2nd Interoperability Forum

I am heartened that ONC is highlighting the importance of innovation in their August 6-8 Forum. Four of the six tracks (Patient Matching, Interoperability Measurement, Security, and Content Interoperability), in fact, feature innovation as a key component. As I shared in my January blog, I wasn’t a fan of the 2017 ONC patient Matching Challenge, so I will be interested to hear where Eric Heflin from the Sequoia Project steers the Patient Matching track discussion, particularly given Sequoia’s recent work.  The recent article by the Pew Foundation Trust  highlighting the need for a national, collaborative  strategy  led by a trusted entity will undoubtedly impact the conversation.   Alas, I am unable to attend, but I’m eager to hear the outcome from colleagues.

Lack of a national strategy for patient matching

I commend the authors of the recent AHIMA article and the Pew Charitable Trust for succinctly discussing (and advancing) the acute need for a national patient matching strategy that is not rooted in government. It’s clear that innovation through collaboration will be required to organize and execute a national strategy. The many splintered and ineffective efforts of the past decade (and longer) have not changed today’s sad situation—matching patient records is more important than ever, yet limited progress has addressed the underlying issues outlined in the article. We need to start confronting these fundamental problems today so another decade of splintered efforts doesn’t pass.

HIMSS Innovation Symposium

I attended this symposium as part of my HIMSS activities in March, and it was certainly worth the admission price! Even several months later, I’m still thinking about takeaways from the excellent speakers from UPMC, USC, Johns Hopkins, NavHealth, TMC Innovation, and many other organizations:

  • Create a culture of innovation. Again, I was struck that almost all the speakers emphasized that an organizational culture of innovation must be established at all levels to ensure success. The entrepreneurial, innovation culture must be localized (close to hospital, facilities, and their data), with respect for diversity and collaboration. Otherwise, budget challenges or project failures will kill innovation initiatives.
  • Democratize data. The push for freeing (or democratizing) data was made by many speakers, including CMS leader Seema Verma. Data from many different sources, both within and beyond an organization, is vital to fueling innovation. But without interoperability through standards, technology, and policy, data democratization can’t get very far.
  • Establish innovation centers. Several speakers lead innovation centers, and proved that innovation will flounder without a dedicated organizational structure. Speakers noted that focused innovation centers can help overcome chronic information overload and resistance to change. These centers measure outcomes, weather failed projects, and ensure a relentless commitment to the innovation mission.
  • Shift from “I” to “we.” I particularly enjoyed hearing Dave Logan from USC Marshall School of Business and CultureSync discuss “Tribal Leadership: Leading Culture and innovation.” While his book has been around for several years, he was very insightful and, at times, comical. He discussed how organizations go through “tribal stages,” and how difficult it is to switch from an “I to a we” mindset. Making this shift can boost collaboration – and innovation.

The new buzz around innovation makes me optimistic that this energy will permeate policy, regulations, and practice – and begin paying off for healthcare consumers. We have to stay focused on not just talking innovation, but practicing it.