Innovate Smarter: Highlights from the Healthcare Executive Roundtable

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Facilitated by Health 2.0 and POMIET, The Innovate Smarter Chicago Roundtable brought together a handful of select healthcare innovators in the Chicago region to share how health systems are creatively collaborating in the digital health space, developing and deploying new technologies, and effectively leveraging system resources to innovate from within.

It was a dynamic half-day of executive networking, learning, and experience sharing. The agenda included topics on Frameworks for Connecting Hospitals & Startups, Developing, Testing, & Deploying New Technologies for an Improved Experience, Challenges of Current EHR Systems, Using the Talent and Resources of a Health System to Innovate from Within, and Improving Health Outcomes: the New Business of Clinical Transformation.

Five themes transcended across these diverse discussions and are listed below. These themes can be used by leaders as a guide from real-world learnings to improve the outcomes of your next initiative.

1. Usability is key.
Participants expressed concerns that many healthcare technology systems in place today are not sustainable. This is because they are not efficient from the perspective of maximizing a clinician’s time. There’s a lot to do in the process of practicing medicine, and every minute counts significantly towards the quality and cost of care delivered. Each individual second spent waiting for an application to load, or a search to reveal meaningful findings, or a clinician to click extraneous fields, quickly adds up to a notable block of unusable care delivery time—for each clinician, every shift. Therefore, it is safe to say that usability matters is a serious understatement in health IT.

2. The integration of clinicians into solution development process-early and ongoing- is required.
The key to making a healthcare system usable is integrating healthcare providers into the design and development process. Too often, technology solutions are developed outside of the healthcare setting and fail to seamlessly fit into the complexities of existing workflows, compliance requirements, legacy systems, and more. Early and ongoing partnerships with healthcare providers who are directly involved in aspects of the associated workflows, compliance, operations, and more, provide critical knowledge and insights. This information can then be applied to ensure new solutions deliver value where needed, and avoid adding cognitive burdens and adoption barriers that cripple progress. Clinicians are part of solution, and need to be actively engaged by innovators.

3. Know the biggest and most important problems to solve.
According to Ward Detwiler, Associate Director of Henry Ford Health System Innovations, hospitals are a unique collection of amazing assets that we should unlock, organize, and innovate. Unlocking these assets is believed to be a powerful ingredient in how hospitals will survive and thrive over the next 100 years. Healthcare leaders need to be smart about where they choose to point these valuable assets. Dr. Jay Bhatt, Chief Health Officer with the Illinois Hospital Association, suggested we start with the problems that are hardest to solve and matter the most.

4. Filter out the noise. Prioritize opportunities and innovations that align with your needs and that you have the highest ability to operationalize.
There is an unprecedented level of noise in healthcare today. Changes in regulations, business models, technology, and other turbulences create new opportunities for innovating in healthcare. But, more opportunities are not necessarily better. Resources are already overburdened, and chasing isolated improvements can consume significant investments with minimal impact. Healthcare leaders need to bring focus to their organizations and define filters to cut through the distractions and unnecessary risks which erode momentum toward success. According the Dr. Jay Bhatt, Chief Health Officer with the Illinois Hospital Association, defining a framework to identity innovations that align with your organizations needs, solve important problems, and are operationally feasible provides a powerful starting point. If you can’t adopt it, it’s not a sustainable solution. This simple but disciplined formula delivers a focused and customized footprint from which healthcare organizations can support innovation that delivers broader impact.

5. Impact-ability.
Who can you impact the most? Healthcare leaders need to explore this question differently than how it has been answered in the past. Dr. Rishi Sikka, SVP of Clinical Transformation, Advocate Health, has seen his organization shift from a mostly fee-for-service model in 2010 to a majority value-based reimbursement model in 2014. According to Dr. Sikka, this transformation is not just about changing reimbursements. It’s changing the paradigms of the business of care. The journey to value-based reimbursements and population health has uncovered constructs at play, which are larger and broader than in-patient care/experiences. The concept of impact-ability is a critical component to exploring these larger constructs. According to Dr. Sikka, the top question to ask is: who can you impact the most? It is likely not the populations and patients traditionally focused on in the past, according to data and experience he shared. For example, the critical care pyramid doesn’t provide maximum impact (improving conditions and lowering costs) for those people who would not achieve that on their own—which surprisingly makes up a majority of people categorized as high spenders (Health Care Transformation Task Force white paper, “Proactively Identifying the High Cost Population”).

We can objectively look at the growing data and determine more effective practices to change the outcomes of outliers—or those people who do not have a similar level of wellness in comparison to others with similar conditions. Those will be the people we can impact the most.

Innovations that focus on these larger impacts will generate the highest improvements in wellness and cost containment.

We are at an exciting time in healthcare. Technology capabilities are now available to make significant improvements. Metrics and data are possible, like never before. We can learn from how we’ve gotten where we are now, and we can solve problems we’re facing in new and effective ways. There is high optimism that we can do better. It will be a marathon rather than a sprint, but we can start making strides today.

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