9 hospital innovation execs share the motto that guides their strategy

Each health system has a different mission, budget, leadership team and population to serve. Because of this, innovation strategies vary from system to system. Below, nine hospital executives share the motto or idea that guides their organization's innovation strategy.

Editor's note: Responses have been edited lightly for clarity and style.

Kolaleh Eskandanian, PhD. Chief Innovation Officer at Children’s National Hospital (Washington, D.C.). The motto that guides Children’s National Hospital’s innovation strategy is "to improve pediatric health challenges." Innovation is a key pillar of Children’s National’s mission to improve health outcomes for children, everywhere. At Children’s National, we define innovation as novel therapies, diagnostics, medical products and care models that offer solutions to pediatric health challenges. This very crystal-clear definition of innovation in our organization induces the creation of programs that are responsive to our mission and guiding principles.  

The formal engine responsible for innovation strategy at Children’s National is "Innovation Ventures” with the mission of adding the "D" in development to the "R" in research. As a top academic medical institution, we understand research very well. And, it’s through partnerships with external entities that we are able to add industry-grade development to our innovative and inventive endeavors. 

As but one example, this year we launched the Biodesign program to better integrate clinicians, front-line healthcare workers, patients, and families into the process of medical product development. And just like this example, every new innovation initiative needs to check back with the motto to remind us who we care for and why we do what we do.   

Richard Zane, MD. Chief Innovation Officer at UCHealth (Aurora, Colo.). The motto is "disrupting and reinventing healthcare." We have an unequivocal desire to be disruptive to the healthcare system and to embrace change and create our own path. To do that, we must partner with industry to advance science. We need and seek people and partners who are fearless and think differently about health care delivery.

For UCHealth’s innovation equation, we concentrate our internal resources, investments and future projects on:

  • Data science and artificial intelligence: This includes leveraging population health and data to make predictive decisions about patients.

  • Digital patient experience: Offering convenience, service and continuity of care at the touch of a finger.

  • Virtual reality and augmented reality: Giving patients and staff a break from reality through immersive virtual reality experiences.

  • Personalized Medicine: Leveraging personalized medicine research, education and clinical care across diseases to accelerate the development of personally tailored treatments.

  • Wearables and Virtual health: Improving access and quality of care outside the four walls of the hospital through technology optimized for remote monitoring, data collection and predictive outcomes.

Chris Waugh. Chief Design and Innovation Officer at Sutter Health (Sacramento, Calif.). The idea that guides our innovation strategy is to look at healthcare from the outside in versus the inside out. This allows us to see that people’s expectations don’t change because they are in another "industry vertical." 

Healthcare is overly complex. What draws specific focus for us is what any individual innovation means for the mother, father, child or employee who will use it. This allows us to clearly prioritize which one is most important to them, and it also allows for more breakthroughs because the innovation comes from empathy, feelings and relatability versus any particular technology or software. For us, we think about how we will make this new technology (AI, voice, etc.) most resonant and meaningful and what real problem or opportunity will be solved for the person using it.

Omkar Kulkarni. Chief Innovation Officer at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. The motto is "better, faster, cheaper." Hospitals with an innovation strategy are aptly able to make choices between enticing business opportunities. Children’s Hospital Los Angeles uses the better, faster, cheaper framework to prioritize and advance novel ideas that are surfaced. Innovations can either improve a) the quality of existing processes or care models (better), b) the efficiency by which work is complete (faster) or c) reduce the cost of a process or service (cheaper). At CHLA, ideas that meet two or three of these criteria are prioritized for advancement within the innovation life cycle.

Thomas Graham, MD. Chief Innovation and Transformation Officer at Kettering (Ohio) Health. Innovation is simultaneously one of the most valued enterprise characteristics and one of the most difficult to define. Before determining a motto or rallying cry, it is first critical to establish and distribute a strong, sustainable understanding of what "innovation" means to each organization. Basically, our definition is the act of reducing transcendent thought to practice — putting ideas to work.

From that foundation, Kettering Health approaches innovation as a disciplined practice that is process-oriented and metrics-driven. Of course, my system is fortunate to be the embodiment of one of the greatest innovation legacies in history — Charles Kettering's creative identity and his lexicon of quotes could be the "Innovation Bible," I especially like, "High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation," but he has many brilliant insights I'd encourage my colleagues to discover.

As for our motto, it's "improving and extending human life, while creating economic opportunities for the communities we serve." When we add the qualifier of "mission-driven" to "innovation," we describe our goal to "solve big problems, for large populations, faster, more efficiently and more economically."

Daniel Durand, MD. Chief Clinical Officer at LifeBridge Health (Baltimore). As the chief clinical officer of a health system that includes five hospitals, I start almost every day by asking myself the question, "What will we need hospitals for in 2030?" How much that we do today will be safely done either at home or in the ambulatory setting in the near future given advancements in point-of-care diagnostics, telehealth, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, robotics, drones, 3D printing, virtual reality, 5G, etc?

To be clear, I am far from being a pessimist about the role of hospitals. I personally don't think the U.S. is as over-bedded as many imply. But, if you ask yourself that question honestly every day and spend your time thinking aggressively like a payer, a startup, a large employer, etc., then you will put your organization in a great strategic position over time.

Mark Kandrysawtz. Chief Innovation Officer at WellSpan Health (York, Pa.). At WellSpan Health, we believe that innovation is the process of improving the human experience and making it better for those who manage, deliver and consume care. Our innovation is driven by "what if" thinking. We want to imagine how healthcare could be, instead of limiting our vision with what we currently expect healthcare to be.

However, the journey is just as important as the outcome. The innovation process must be a great experience to maintain engagement and fuel serendipitous discovery. So much of our technology today and how we use it was still science fiction 20 years ago. Human civilization has been making bread for millennia, but the sandwich wasn’t created until the 1700s and sliced bread is less than a century old. We want to imagine how we can continue to innovate healthcare by asking "what if" and using both sides of our brain to intersect science and art.

Claus Torp Jensen, PhD. Chief Innovation Officer and Executive Vice President of Research and Development and IT at Teladoc Health (Purchase, N.Y.). Our motto is to focus on innovation that matters. And in our case that means a more holistic care model which focuses on whole-person health instead of point solutions.

Biological and clinical science has brought us treatments that people could only dream about in the early 1900s. But at the same time, the system has become much more specialized and often disconnected, leaving many of us to navigate healthcare needs on our own. We have to fix that, we have to drive transformation through integration. The innovation that healthcare needs most is to disaggregate the solutions towers and put the pieces back together better. For us, that means embracing a mission to amplify and extend the impact and reach of healthcare institutions. 

The answer to better health outcomes is not replacing or disintermediating the existing system and its advanced capabilities — rather, the answer is providing the platform that "glues together" all of the currently disconnected point experiences and data points to deliver better health.

Prentice Tom, MD. Chief Futurist at Vituity (Emeryville, Calif.). When it comes to innovation in healthcare, my motto is "Be water, my friend." It’s a quote from Bruce Lee, referring to the philosophy behind the martial art he developed, Jeet Kune Do. 

We need to recognize that medical care comprises a significant portion of the healthcare industry, and medicine is still a highly fragmented, siloed industry with significant inertia, resulting in an innovation and technology adoption timeline that often approaches a decade. In addition, although becoming more transactional, it remains a highly relational (and complex) culture. 

Because it can be difficult to prepare for change 10 years in advance, and there will be many unpredictable events in that time frame, health tech companies need to prioritize competencies over tactics. Success depends on an enterprise’s fitness, and an enterprise’s fitness is its culture, its people and its financial resources. Speed and agility, ability to pivot are more important than any specific maneuvers, yet fitness is about the long-haul vision over short-term gains. 

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