6 lessons in health IT innovation

Innovation may be one of the most overused words in healthcare, but when it comes to health IT innovation is the name of the game.

At the Becker's Hospital Review 6th Annual Meeting, Lyle Berkowitz, MD, FACP, FHIMSS, associate CMO of Innovation at Northwestern Medicine, offered six simple lessons to drive innovation in the health IT space.

So much of technology in the healthcare space is focused on EMRs and EHRs, but Dr. Berkowitz imagines a future beyond this. "IT people made EMRs look like paper, because that is what physicians wanted," he said. "Computers are horrible at being paper, and we have to think differently." The new generation of health IT companies will find solutions that work on top of EMRs and go far beyond the technology healthcare is working with today, but first we need the people and ideas to get us there. Here are Dr. Berkowitz's six lessons.

1. Identify the minimal viable innovation. Don't be afraid to borrow ideas from other people. "Fail early, fail fast, fail often and fail cheaply," said Dr. Berkowitz.

2. People and processes are more important than the IT. Do not except technology to be a silver bullet. The people and processes behind the technology will be the forces that drive innovation.

3. You can start small. Innovation in health IT does not have to mean creating something entirely new; it could be something as simple as finding a new way to use existing technology. Dr. Berkowitz shared an example in which phone chargers were brought to an emergency department. While a small scale project it drove significant patient satisfaction, which is no mean feat in today's healthcare environment.

4. Apply new innovations to old problems. "We are cutting the cost curve, but not as much as we need," he said. "We must innovate or we will lose." Focus on core problems and aim to find new solutions.

5. Try different ideas and technologies that have found success in other industries. Thought leaders consistently point out that healthcare is fell behind so many other industries when it comes to technology and innovation. Try ideas from the airline or retail industries; perhaps one of these will spark rapid innovation in your organization.

6. Embrace the power of physician happiness. Physicians can be both the source and users of innovation, but without them technology cannot go very far. "There is no quality without use," said Dr. Berkowitz.

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