31 innovation leaders share their goals and strategies for healthcare innovation

This year, Becker's Hospital Review spoke to dozens of innovation leaders from hospitals and health systems across the country about their roles in the increasingly influential realm of innovation.

Here is a list of 31 of those conversations from the second half of the year, when Becker's launched a dedicated innovation channel.

Editor's note: Interviews are arranged in alphabetical order by last name. This is not an exhaustive list of the Q&A's published by Becker's.

Leonard Achan, senior vice president of innovation and business development and chief innovation officer, Hospital for Special Surgery (New York City): "In my role as chief innovation officer, I am most proud of the increasing integration of the thinking and culture of innovation and commercialization into all services and verticals throughout the organization in the form of shared leadership, shared responsibility and shared advocacy."

Ashish Atreja, MD, chief innovation officer, Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine (New York City): "As I've had this role, I've learned that to make innovation wholesome you must have the element of transformation. … If you create something and it works, it's really your responsibility to meaningfully partner with other departments and organizations to ensure that patients are touched by the innovation. Innovation and transformation really go hand in hand."

Chris Coburn, chief innovation officer, Partners HealthCare (Boston): "It's important for people to know that innovation is a process. … As innovation leaders, you must understand the context you sit in while being very clear-eyed about the organizational dynamics. Innovation is not one breakthrough. Rather, innovation is an expression of the organization's priorities and capabilities and realized through the creative actions of our gifted employees — hundreds of our Harvard faculty and administrative leaders. The job of our team is to help enable and then commercially act on this expression."

Eduardo Conrado, executive vice president and chief strategy and innovations officer, Ascension (Edmundson, Mo.): "My role begins and ends with people. We are talking about creating experiences for the consumer and the caregiver. Technology itself is an enabler, but not necessarily an end game. I don't sit around and talk tech for tech's sake; I take a very human-centered approach."

Mark Coticchia, corporate vice president of innovation, Baptist Health (Coral Gables, Fla.): "As in other industries, the power is shifting from institutions to consumers. That's good for everyone. But, like all change, there will be pain points along the way. To better serve our current and future patients, Baptist Health has embarked on an initiative to embrace digital solutions to healthcare."

Myra Davis, CIO and chief innovation officer, Texas Children's Hospital (Houston): "Getting our team on board with innovation and digital transformation is an incremental process. First, it is really changing the culture to welcome an innovation hub that is established to facilitate the innovative thinking of members of the organization. Second, we also look to ways that we can disrupt ourselves and vet new ideas in an expedited way. … And third, to make sure we're always having the foresight to see what possibilities, whether those ideas come from internal or external sources, and opportunities we have with leveraging data."

Todd Dunn, director of innovation and head of Healthcare Transformation Lab, Intermountain Healthcare (Salt Lake City): "The goal for my role, as a small part of a grand system, is to collaborate very deeply with our caregivers, whether that's teaching them about innovation and how we think about it, finding tools and methods to do it better or interacting with a number of early-stage companies around the country and the globe to harness what they do. My real priority is to understand the struggles we're having and either help teams resolve those struggles through our own abilities as innovators or partner with external companies to make the world a better place for our patients and our caregivers."

Daniel Durand, MD, chief innovation officer, LifeBridge Health (Baltimore): "The role of the innovation team at LifeBridge Health is to promote the highest possible quality of care for our patients, both within our enterprise and beyond our enterprise. This means identifying, prioritizing and helping implement a variety of innovations — both analog and digital — and working on a variety of topics ranging from the use of artificial intelligence to improve hospital safety to the use of mobile technology to better engage and delight patients outside the health system as they go about their lives as people."

Kolaleh Eskandanian, PhD, vice president and chief innovation officer, Children's National Health System (Washington, D.C.): "The most important aspect of my role is to react to market signals sharply and think several steps ahead. In the innovation domain, those who get twisted in the traditional methodology of benchmarking, for example, will clearly stay behind."

Peter Fleischut, MD, senior vice president and chief transformation officer, NewYork-Presbyterian (New York City): "Technology is not value-neutral. It's our job as leaders to ensure healthcare innovation is implemented in such a way that it ultimately improves the quality of care for patients, enhances the patient experience and results in adequate cost of and access to healthcare for everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status."

Thomas J. Graham, director of strategy and innovation in the orthopedic surgery department, NYU Langone Health (New York City): "Innovation is an enterprise imperative. Putting ideas to work is the responsibility of all of our caregivers from across our entire system. Our goal is to leverage our creative culture to improve and extend human life while providing economic opportunity for the individuals and communities we serve."

Brian Holzer, MD, president of Kindred Innovations, Kindred Healthcare (Louisville, Ky.): "You have to be very, very structured in terms of what your business model is intended to do for the user. That may be very different from how you're selling it to the customer who's making the purchase decision. The hospital is going to purchase a digital health solution one way or another because it's good for their patients and it drives brand value and some sort of financial return. That may be a totally different calculus than what the end benefits will be to a customer."

Matthew Jenusaitis, chief of staff and chief of innovation and transformation, University of California San Diego Health: "The vision that I keep talking about is that healthcare is changing. It's becoming consumer-driven. Making it easier for the provider is not going to be what motivates a millennial to choose your healthcare system. The consumers are going to decide what they want in healthcare, and if we don't provide it for them, somebody else is going to, and what's going to end up happening is our business is going to atrophy."

Rebecca Kaul, chief innovation officer, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston): "We believe innovation is an interdisciplinary function that is more about the mindset of the individual than the technical skills."

Roger Kitterman, vice president of venture at Partners Innovation, Partners HealthCare (Boston): "We are looking for technologies that will improve patient care, patient experience and the efficiency of operations to bend the cost curve. … It would start with the process we have had in place for a long time, where we work with our digital leadership to identify companies that are a specific fit for this fund and then start having conversations."

Omkar Kulkarni, chief innovation officer, Children's Hospital Los Angeles: "Everybody is innovative by nature. This is especially true of healthcare workers. The core part of my role is to empower people to voice their ideas and then create a safe space for them to further explore and evaluate their ideas."

Peter Kung, system vice president of innovation and virtual health, SCL Health (Broomfield, Colo.): "In order to get innovation into the DNA of an organization, you need strong executive leadership, collaboration across departments and engagement down to front line team members. By having a strong partnership throughout the health system, you can really promote and embed innovation."

Kent Lehr, vice president of strategy and business development, UnityPoint Health (Des Moines, Iowa): "There are endless opportunities to make healthcare better right now … it can be overwhelming to think about all the ways healthcare could and should improve. For me, it's less about a single initiative, and more about staying focused on the long game. I want to keep my foot on the gas, and I'm motivated to push forward because there are real people who need us to keep going."

Aaron Martin, executive vice president and chief digital and innovation officer, Providence (Renton, Wash.): "[My No. 1 priority is to] move our patients from an offline, infrequent, episodic 'sick care' relationship with Providence St. Joseph Health to a highly engaged digital relationship in which we're helping our patients improve their health on a daily basis."

Peter O'Neill, executive director of Cleveland Clinic Innovations, Cleveland Clinic: "A lot of healthcare innovation is in the world of data analytics and digital health, and data is at the core of all of it. Having good, high-quality data, and lots of it, is essential; whether it's machine learning, AI or blockchain, you need data to be able to refine the algorithms that drive those value opportunities."

John Pigott, MD, chief innovations officer and head of strategic business development, ProMedica (Toledo, Ohio): "You have to make sure that you're engaging technology and introducing technology into the system … and bringing a best-in-class solution to a problem within the healthcare system. That's what innovation should do, whether it's an internal project or technology you're bringing in from the outside, to either save or make money."

Rubin Pillay, MD, PhD, chief innovation officer, University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System: "Innovation does not happen spontaneously, and for organizations and health systems to innovate, the initial strong focus has to be on innovation capacity development. Otherwise, it just becomes a theoretical discussion, and it's very, very difficult to apply."

Diana Rhyne, executive director of innovation and research, WakeMed Health & Hospitals (Raleigh, N.C.): "For innovation, our role will be to help the healthcare system find ways, through either technology or different processes, that create value. This could range from improving our telemedicine offerings to supply chain. It's all about the journey to value. This is where I think innovation is going to be most important moving forward."

Sylvia Romm, MD, chief innovation officer, Atlantic Health System (Morristown, N.J.): "I believe that health systems need to learn from one another to move quickly and safely toward advances in healthcare. In a similar vein, health systems must recognize that innovators and entrepreneurs that are outside the health system space are also working hard to improve healthcare, and that success in this area means standing shoulder to shoulder with other organizations that are interested in working hard to develop real solutions."

Roy Rosin, chief innovation officer, Penn Medicine (Philadelphia): "My goal as chief innovation officer … is to enable teams to rapidly experiment, testing new approaches quickly at low cost. Changing the way care is delivered remains challenging, but we've seen material improvements are well within our grasp. Helping reveal that new models have potential and are worth pursuing — often by enabling early evidence of what that different outcome looks like — means we can translate novel insights into actions, pilots and, ultimately, scaled practices."

Rich Roth, senior vice president and chief strategic innovation officer, CommonSpirit Health (Chicago): "One of the secret sauces for innovation in healthcare is to introduce technologies within the clinicians' workflow that reduce friction and solve challenges patients may face in accessing their healthcare. We also have to do this in a way that is economically viable and protects patients' information."

Roberta Schwartz, PhD, executive vice president and chief innovation officer, Houston Methodist: "What we're seeing is everyone just has a little bit of a different focus: Some are on building, and some are on buying. They're all going to make significant contributions, as long as we learn from each other and don't waste a huge amount of time reinventing the wheel over and over and over again. All of us who are dedicated to it are going to be a piece of what's going to help transform the industry."

Michelle Stansbury, vice president of IT innovation, Houston Methodist: "You can get caught up in all the dazzle that's out there right now with innovation and technology, but you have to stay close to the problems that you're trying to solve in your institution — they're different for every institution — and make sure that the innovation you're trying to lead has a solid ROI to it."

David Sylvan, vice president and executive director of University Hospitals Ventures, University Hospitals (Cleveland): "The categories we focus on are designed to capture the vast volume of opportunities within our system, specifically where we can solve well-defined problems. Our four core tenets are: population health, clinical tools, business tools and patient-as-consumer."

Douglas Wood, MD, medical director of innovation and design, Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minn.): "The most important thing is to think about the smallest number of big ideas that you want to work on and then make sure you are marshaling your resources carefully to get the result that you need. And you have to be action-oriented, because there is no innovation without action; there's no innovation without incorporating something, doing something or implementing something that will actually solve the problem."

Richard Zane, MD, chief innovation officer, UCHealth (Aurora, Colo.): "Part of my job is to get people not just excited about the potential and not just working to build a solution, but to get their heads right around the mindset of innovation, which is that there are going to be just as many failures as there are successes. The important part is that we make sure that they're small and that we learn from those failures and know that just because we've had a failure, it doesn't mean we're going to pivot and completely abandon the direction that we're going in."

More articles on innovation:
How 10 hospitals are spending innovation investment dollars: Hackensack Meridian, Highmark Health & more
HBR: Innovation requires more than a big research budget
Cincinnati Children's taps digital health platform to license physical therapy tech

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