Mottos to live by: 9 healthcare innovation execs share the ideas that guide their strategy

As the people who lead digital transformation strategies for the country's top hospitals and healthcare organizations, healthcare innovation leaders need to have a clear, zealous framework guiding their plans to improve healthcare via technology.

Here, nine healthcare innovation executives discuss the mottos and ideas around which they center their strategy.

Omkar Kulkarni, chief innovation officer, Children's Hospital Los Angeles: 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 a) improve the quality of existing processes or care models (Better), b) improve the efficiency by which work is completed (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.

Muthu Krishnan, PhD, chief digital transformation officer, IKS Health (Burr Ridge, Ill.): The following quotes: "We cannot solve problems with the same thinking we used when we created them," from Albert Einstein; "I skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been,"  from Wayne Gretzky; and "Once you have an innovation culture, even those who are not scientists or engineers, embrace the meaning. They embrace the concept of an innovation culture," from Neil deGrasse Tyson, PhD.

Innovation is one of the six core values for IKS Health. Innovation is about finding solutions for tasks that we repeatedly do, that make them faster, better and cheaper. Innovation can be "jugaad," or very mathematical/scientific, incremental or radical, and transformative or disruptive. Every successful company that is also a learning organization, like IKS, is using one of the tools under the umbrella of innovation to solve their industry's problems. IKS has a two-pronged approach to innovation: innovate our processes and innovate our products/services. All innovation is predicated on prior knowledge. So a strong team of subject matter, operating, technology and process innovation specialists are key to a successful innovation program.

At IKS, our culture lends itself to bubbling up process innovation to improve our existing processes. In doing so, we have applied our experience and knowledge gained over a period of time to achieve those goals. Our operations teams work closely with process innovation and technology teams to identify and implement many of these changes. Changes are rolled out starting with pilots within the technology team and eventually scaled to the operating teams. Changes to an existing process make the process higher quality, improve turnaround times and, most importantly, standardize them to ensure high reliability.

Our strategic innovation team is led by a group of subject matter experts within the company, industry thought leaders and client partners. We start with a problem statement followed by a hands-on workshop like a hackathon that leads to new products and services. Our organizational DNA and our highly talented client, design and technology teams enable us to reimagine many of the problems from the ground up. For the rest of the problems, we rely on immersive learning where we discover the unknown that eventually leads us to solving the challenge. We are a nimble organization, and our product prioritization is ongoing to fit into the agile methodology. Our ability to innovate products allows us to offer new services and products to our clients' most pressing healthcare administrative and clinical challenges.

In terms of incorporating the innovations, we make many small changes or a few dramatic changes over a period of time. We do not draw artificial boundaries on time to complete the rollout. In our industry, there are so many nuances to work through. We have technology, legal and project constraints to wade through. For us, success has come through persisting on the problem and driving the solution. By focusing specifically on pragmatic innovation, we have driven new solutions throughout our organization and excellent outcomes for our clients. Culturally, we believe that any skill can be learned, and innovation is a skill. Our corporate culture is the underlying foundation that allows us to embrace innovation as a core value.

Lisa Prasad, vice president and chief innovation officer, Henry Ford Health System (Detroit): The healthcare industry continues to change rapidly, even more so with the pandemic and the acceleration of digital and virtual care. We are witnessing a powerful convergence of rising consumerism, clinical and digital innovations, healthcare reform and an aging population. At Henry Ford, our aim is not to simply keep up with the world around us, but rather, to lead this change through transformation and innovation. The strategy for Henry Ford Innovations is to leverage the health system's technology, data and know-how to develop cutting-edge solutions so our clinicians provide superior care, value and experience with every encounter we have.

Claus Jensen, PhD, chief digital officer and chief technology officer, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (New York City): The key thought behind our approach to digital innovation is that we must take care of the needs of the whole human. So many things in healthcare are changing rapidly, including the ways in which we can reach and help people. When you are diagnosed with cancer, the last thing you need is practical or logistical challenges. MSK's integrated care model has always been aimed at holistically meeting the needs of our patients. We use integrated resources such as telemedicine and remote monitoring in order to create a fully integrated hybrid model that transcends our physical facilities and eases the journey for the people we are here to help.

Sarah Lindenauer, director of innovation and digital health accelerator, Boston Children's Hospital: Successful innovation happens at the intersection of simplicity and value. As a pediatric hospital that treats children with often rare and complex conditions, Boston Children's strives to simplify the healthcare experience for our patients and their families through digital innovation. Whether reducing friction in basic interactions such as appointment-booking or making discharge instructions contextual via voice or text reminders, true innovation should make things easier. This motto of simplification extends to our clinicians too, as digital innovation can make various aspects of providing care easier or more efficient. For example, voice-enabled EMR documentation eases the administrative burden, ultimately allowing our providers to spend more time with their patients delivering top-quality care. 

Eduardo Conrado, executive vice president and chief strategy & innovation officer, Ascension Health (St. Louis): At Ascension, our innovation strategy is focused on deeply understanding patients and caregivers and then creating optimal experiences enabled by data and technology, among other things.

We've partnered with our caregivers to better understand the needs of consumers and patients, and, combined with our own consumer and ethnographic research, to create a healthcare system — and the products and services that go along with it — that is truly responsive. It's all about delivering personalized and compassionate care for those we're privileged to serve, especially those most vulnerable among us.

Kathy Azeez-Narain, chief digital officer, Hoag Hospital (Newport Beach, Calif.): Innovation is hard, especially within a complex infrastructure like healthcare. Solving one piece of the puzzle doesn't necessarily get you to the full outcomes you are trying to drive. It requires a bridging of understanding the complexity of healthcare systems while influencing its change through advancing the right technology and experiences within your organization. 

At Hoag, our innovation and digital strategy is rooted in solving problems for people. The patient or consumer is at the center of who we are building for, and we believe that true innovation within healthcare will matter if what we build or create improves the quality of care that we are able to provide. Whether it's a digital health solution or an advancement of treatment in our care facilities, technology paired with a defined problem, centered around the patient or consumer is key to our process and innovation strategy. Designing a future that delivers better care no matter the journey the patient chooses is the end goal for which we strive.

Lisa Sershen, chief digital officer, Westmed Medical Group (Purchase, N.Y.): Our strategic innovation is guided by our intent to improve patient outcomes and simplify physician workflows. Our patients are educated, informed and have an expectation of high-quality care where and when they need it. Simultaneously, our physicians face a culture of burnout and are in need of streamlined systems to aid them in the delivery of care. Identifying these needs and finding the correct solutions through the use of evolving health delivery systems, emerging big data and advanced analytics offers us the opportunity to build new relationships and improve patient experience.

John Grant, chief innovation officer, CleanSite Medical (Solana Beach, Calif.): While CleanSite Medical is a developer/creator of innovative disinfection devices focused primarily on healthcare-acquired infections related to vascular access, our team works with hospitals and health systems to both refine innovative concepts and designs and to test human factors related to ultimate utilization of the device. 

Since we are focused on eliminating HAIs, a difficult and deadly but mostly preventable reality of healthcare today, killing over 100,000 annually in the U.S., our first corporate motto was: "We are focused on zero," meaning bring the number of cases/deaths to zero. We also utilize "healthier healthcare," which emphasizes our mission of making the act of going to or being admitted to a healthcare facility a healthier and better experience as related to HAI.

The key motto of CleanSite specifically related to our innovation process and the ultimate project and product is, "Innovation without implementation is regression,' meaning you can have the best intentions, ideas and strategies related to innovation, but without effective implementation, including messaging, training, support and follow-up, your innovation goes nowhere but backward in terms of mission.

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