Expanding care outside 4 hospital walls: Boston Children's chief innovation officer details how to promote new ideas

Mackenzie Garrity - Print  | 

After 11 years at Boston Children's Hospital, John Brownstein, PhD, stepped into a new role in June 2015 at the hospital: chief innovation officer. Over the past four years, Dr. Brownstein has grown his innovation team to 70 members and has expanded the hospital's partnership portfolio.

Below, Dr. Brownstein shares his experience as a chief innovation officer and how changes in healthcare are affecting his role.

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

Question: As chief innovation officer, what has been your proudest moment or accomplishment? 

Dr. John Brownstein: Working at Boston Children’s Hospital has afforded me a front row seat to amazing progress as an enterprise. Personally, it has been thrilling to watch the innovation team grow to over 70 people with a portfolio of 26 companies and projects while also forging novel partnerships with major companies, such as GE and Amazon. The pediatric space tends to be overlooked in favor of adult medicine, but we’ve been able to showcase our efforts in innovation and encourage other players to understand the benefits of working with a children’s hospital. 
 
Q: How do you promote innovation on your team and within your hospital?

JB: Innovation is really inherent at Boston Children’s. We’ve been a pioneer in so many ways that it feels like second nature to innovate while delivering the gold standard in patient care. We work with the hospital to help channel some of those ideas to the innovation team so we can help them scale effectively and understand the potential outside of the four walls of the hospital. We have amazing clinical advisors on our team that work as innovation ambassadors to help make connections between us and the amazing clinicians and advisors. 
 
Q: Looking five to 10 years ahead, where do you see your role as chief innovation officer heading? How will changes in healthcare affect your role? 

JB: I think the next five to 10 years are going to solve for a lot of the issues which currently interfere with healthcare innovation. We’ll be able to move past the problems of interoperability and have the opportunity to reimagine the roles of clinicians, and extending their reach, as artificial intelligence-driven decision support tools become more widespread.   

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