5 things that can sink hospital innovation efforts

Emily Rappleye (Twitter) - Print  | 

Over the past couple years, "innovation" has become a strategic imperative for many hospitals and health systems, but what exactly is innovation — and how can leaders sustain innovative changes in their organizations long-term?

In a session titled "Key Steps to Innovation and Innovation Programs: What Does it Mean? What Does Success Look Like and Why is it so Important?" at the Becker's Hospital Review 8th Annual CEO + CFO Roundtable in November in Chicago, panelists discussed what real innovation looks like and key considerations before launching innovation initiatives at hospitals and health systems.

The panelists were Grant Wicklund, president and CEO of Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge, Colo.; Ian G. Worden, COO of Tacoma, Wash.-based CHI Franciscan; Roger Jansen, PhD, founding CEO of HealthEco and former chief strategy officer for Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Christopher Hart, senior portfolio manager at University Hospitals Ventures in Cleveland.

In the discussion, the following five themes emerged as common pitfalls for hospitals and health systems deploying innovation efforts:

1. Lack of support from leadership. Innovation is a cultural effort. To make change and then sustain it, innovation needs support from senior leadership. This means showing how and why innovation efforts matter, even when they fail. Leaders must reposition failures as learning opportunities to keep momentum going.

2. Confusing invention and innovation. Innovation and invention are often used interchangeably, but panelists agreed the distinction between these concepts is critical. They defined invention as creating new gadgets and tools, while innovation was defined as small strategic changes in care delivery or business models. While invention can be important, the leaders on the panel noted that the market is already full of inventive resources, and hospitals can make a much larger difference by working on care delivery.

3. No targeted problems. The panelists warned of innovating for innovation's sake. Hospitals should always target innovation efforts around specific problems to ensure useful solutions result.

4. Absence of metrics. Similarly, the panelists noted that all efforts, once identified, must have specific metrics and baseline measures to track progress. It can be difficult to evaluate the value of open-ended experiments.

5. Partnering up too quickly. While it is often tempting to find startup partners who can act more nimbly and bring new strengths to the table, the panelists warned about jumping into strategic partnerships too quickly. All potential partners need to be evaluated for fit and financial sustainability.

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