Fostering a culture of innovation: 5 CIOs share insights

Five CIOs from health systems and hospitals nationwide share their strategies for promoting and fostering innovation.

Question: How do you promote innovation within your organization?

Christopher Longhurst, MD, MS, CIO and associate chief medical officer of quality and patient safety at UC San Diego Health: Innovation is woven into the fabric of academic medical centers like UC San Diego Health, and bringing the right people together to collaborate on disruptive ideas is key. We are well positioned locally with leaders, like our Chief of Innovation and Transformation Matthew Jenusaitis, to explore a variety of opportunities within our industry and peer health systems across the University of California. These partnerships allow us to explore new technologies and processes that improve patient care.

Within UC San Diego Health, we have put together a clinical informatics team led by Chief Medical Information Officer Brian Clay, MD, and Clinical Research Information Officer Mike Hogarth, MD, to innovate in our clinical and research areas. Finally, our AMC is the perfect setting for our annual health-focused hackathon, which brings together a multidisciplinary group of experts and students to co-create solutions that address critical issues in healthcare today.

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David Lehr, CIO at Anne Arundel Medical Center (Annapolis, Md.): I like to promote innovation by fostering a culture that is unafraid to challenge established dogmas when they stop making sense. I think that a lot of places that are known for 'innovation' often fall into the trap of building technology for the sake of technology. Real innovation is about recognizing when the environment has changed to the point where the old algorithms are no longer optimal. Then, if the culture is accepting, innovators will step in and establish the new algorithm.

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Peter Marks, PhD, vice president and CIO at WakeMed Health & Hospitals (Raleigh, N.C.): People desire to be innovative. We are natural problem solvers and look for ways to improve using unique and different methods. Given this, it is important to break down silos and give employees the opportunity to integrate different solutions to remedy issues and improve the process. It is also important to celebrate failures — it helps spark the confidence to continue to try, try again.

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Aaron Young, CIO at Summit Healthcare Regional Medical Center (Show Low, Ariz.): The best ways I've found to promote innovation within our organization are to build trust by providing a robust infrastructure, 'connecting the dots' for stakeholders and putting the patient at the center of our decision-making. I'm fortunate to have a supportive CEO and board that buys into the information technology vision to fund IT investments. Summit Healthcare has replaced its entire IT infrastructure since I started four years ago. In doing so, we've architected an infrastructure with excess capacity that is an open standard and agile. Having a robust infrastructure allowed us to deliver patient-centered solutions that decrease IT time for end-users, improve system uptime and ultimately improve patient safety and experience.

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Craig Wilhelm, CIO at Arnot Health (Elmira, N.Y.): Although we are a small and somewhat rural health system, we have an innovation officer who also serves as the leader of our quality care programs. So, our mindset around IT innovation is infused with an emphasis on patient safety and quality of care using telehealth technology. For us, innovation must also consider the financial stability of the organization as we look to grow our business and reduce our costs. We must continue to find creative ways to better integrate our healthcare information and activities while lowering our costs. This often requires a level of innovation that is not in the playbook of larger organizations who aren't facing the same financial challenges.

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