Becker's 10th Annual Meeting Speaker Series: 3 Questions with James Robinson, Senior Executive Adviser for PrincipioGS

James Robinson serves as Senior Executive Adviser for PrincipioGS.

On April 2nd, James will speak at Becker's Hospital Review 10th Annual Meeting. As part of an ongoing series, Becker's is talking to healthcare leaders who plan to speak at the conference, which will take place April 1-4, 2019 in Chicago.

To learn more about the conference and James' session, click here.

Question: Healthcare takes a lot of heat for not innovating quickly. What is your take on this?

James Robinson: Guilty as charged! Healthcare is notorious for innovating at a glacial pace. I think that this has become more evident as the tech boom has shown us great examples of how companies can move from concept to the market place in virtually the snap of a finger. There are clearly rate limiting factors to consider in healthcare such as patient safety and regulatory bodies but there must be happy medium. In addition to out of control spending, healthcare’s slow pace of innovation is a true vulnerability that makes us a target for disruption. New startups and entrepreneurs are ready to beat the traditional healthcare industry to the punch. Consumers and payors are hungry for healthcare innovation that will create convenience and value. In fact, when I speak with young entrepreneurs trying to break into the industry, they frequently cite slow pace of innovation as a major frustration.

Speed to market has never been the forte of healthcare but there are clearly some bright spots emerging. For example, Trinity has developed innovation hubs that serve as incubators for new ideas to improve patient care. Similarly, the Dignity (now CommonSpirit) Intellectual Innovation Network serves to identify and assess innovative ideas. In addition, we are seeing healthcare companies explore partnerships with smaller more nimble companies to facilitate innovation and entrepreneurship. Innovation and speed to market will have to become the rule versus the exception if we want to meet the demands of patients and keep the healthcare industry from going the way of the dinosaur.

Q: What do innovators/entrepreneurs from outside of healthcare need to better understand about hospital and health system leaders?

JR: I have worked with a lot of young entrepreneurs who are all looking for ways to better interact with healthcare leaders. Most of them are looking for insights that will help them get a “foot in the door” to pitch an idea or product. My responses to them center around three main themes:

First, healthcare leaders are all juggling multiple priorities so its important to understand the priorities and have solutions that can make an immediate impact. Innovators should understand the vernacular and show how their solutions move the dial on a pressing problem. Understanding key industry metrics or specific challenges of a hospital is a key way lay the groundwork for a partnership. Stated differently, if you can show me that you know my specific pain points, I’m more likely to partner.

Second, healthcare leaders have numerous people approaching all day long so its important to try and establish relationships with other people in an organization and not just the CEO. For example, it’s helpful to develop clinical or administrative champion who can tout the value of a new idea. This can serve as an additional voice who can further amplify the value of a new concept.

Third, most (not all) healthcare leaders have a short attention span. It is critically important to present your ideas with a big splash up front in order to keep the leader’s attention. Presenting 30-page PowerPoints or 5-page white papers is a quick way to lose attention and the opportunity to see your idea blossom. I know leaders who only allow 5-page PowerPoints and 1-page proposals. Always be succinct and get to the bottom line as soon as possible. Bonus theme, all healthcare leaders are mission driven. If you want to better understand a healthcare leader spend time understanding the mission and vision of the organizations, they represent. The best way to see a healthcare leader’s eyes light up is to talk about their mission. Knowing the mission is a great starting point and a real way to get (and maybe keep) his or her attention.

Q: Tell us about the last meaningful interaction you had with a patient.

JR: My leadership style is one in which I spend a lot of time of the floors interacting with patients and staff. My “nearly open door” policy gives me the opportunity to get first hand knowledge of how patients and families experience care. For this reason, I commonly have interactions with patients that give me a chance to help address their concerns.

One of my most meaningful interactions with a patient occurred on the maternity ward. A young mother came to the hospital to deliver her child and a mere hour after the birth, she eloped…. without her child. The birth was uncomplicated, and the child was perfectly healthy. As CEO, I was made aware of the situation and made sure that all protocols were followed. Social services was immediately engaged to try and find the mother and line up a potential disposition for the child. As you can imagine the outstanding OB nurses and physicians jumped in to nurture and address all the child’s needs. As a father of four children, I was struck by the thought of what it may feel like to come into the world without the attention of a parent. This thought obviously permeated the facility as we all showered the baby with love and attention. Staff from all over the hospital were outstanding as everyone bought clothes, rockers and toys. At two days old, the young child had one of the most extensive wardrobes and toy collections you could imagine. Staff had to essentially stand in line to get a chance to hold and comfort the baby. I took time everyday to rock the child and make sure that he was in a nurturing environment. This daily time truly a chance to connect with a patient and live out the mission. The mother was identified, given support and ultimately reunited with her child. This situation was a stark reminder of why we get into healthcare. Despite the pressures and headaches, our ultimate goal is to help others. One experience like this truly makes me appreciate the power and responsibility we have to improve the lives of those we serve.

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