How healthcare leaders collaborate and innovate with technology partners

In my time as a healthcare leader, and today as part of a technology team, I have been excited to notice partnerships between healthcare and tech organizations both increase in number and expand in scope.

Health systems, more than ever, are learning to trust and rely on best-of-industry tools to amplify the expertise and best practices they have built for themselves, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel in-house. On the flip side, technology partners are leveraging the knowledge of process, care delivery, and staff optimization that health systems have developed. They are discovering the most effective ways to build and deploy their solutions to support the health systems in these areas. This collaboration benefits everyone, and it is motivating to see.

Collaboration in practice: conversations with healthcare technology leaders
Recently, I enjoyed a panel discussion with two health system leaders focused on using AI to innovate healthcare operations. Both have extensive experience as technology innovators within the healthcare space, and both have seen healthcare evolve from an industry that ran on technology to one that embraced and evolved it.

Craig Richardville, MBA, CHCIO, the Chief Digital and Information Officer at Intermountain Health, recognizes that the EHR journey health systems began decades ago has led to “a tremendous amount of data available to us” now. “Our focus [must be] to standardize it, normalize it, and bring that out to the industry and to the market so we can all benefit and provide better services for our populations,” Richardville says.

Liz Popwell, MPA, FACHE, PMP, is Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer at Stony Brook Medicine, has worked strategically with healthcare CIO and IT leaders across the US, and with her current health system for a year. “We're thinking about not just what technology looks like today, but also rolling out a new strategic plan… about workforce and optimization issues. We're blessed at Stony Brook Medicine to have five health science schools that can work together on solutions for today, but also can incubate and innovate for the workforce of tomorrow.”

Richardville and Popwell shared the insights they had gleaned in their experience, of what aspects make healthcare leaders effective collaborators with technology partners, as well as technology innovators in their own right. These leaders:

Begin with a patient-centered, service-driven mindset
Healthcare systems are service providers first and foremost, and technology innovation should always be built to support this. Any adoption of technology should be driven toward performing the service of delivering care to patients, in a way that makes receiving that care simple and stress-free. Doing so promotes better patient engagement and satisfaction, and ultimately better health outcomes for them.

“We lead patients through all these different journeys,” Richardville says. “In retail and financial services, I'm doing the work a clerk used to do, whenever I want to, not just during business hours…with an app that allows me…to do it effectively and efficiently.” Patients expect the same convenience and efficiency and convenience from the healthcare technology they interact with. “As we continue to evolve, a lot of healthcare is ripe for that. But it's also sensitive… We're talking about life and quality of life, in cases just having life itself, and keeping people healthy and well.”

Embrace technology possibilities with creativity, tenacity, and a human perspective
“If we think about the right use cases and appropriate areas where we can deploy technology, I think it’s limitless,” Popwell says. “The other thing is to be tenacious. Do not give up.”

Especially with game-changing technology like Generative AI on the horizon, healthcare leaders must be open to new technologies and approaches, and have an appetite to explore how they fit in with established practices and make them better. For instance, giving nurses virtual technology to monitor patient signs remotely allows them to still perform an essential task while saving time and expanding their scope. The same technology allows providers and staff to monitor geriatric patients and other vulnerable patients at their homes, to better manage safety and health factors like fall risks.

Willingness to embrace these technologies and pursue them to fruition means the possibilities are endless. But an essential component is to consider how technology truly interfaces with human expertise and needs.

“Artificial intelligence will not replace physicians, but physicians who don't use artificial intelligence will be replaced,” Richardville says, “You need to bring the technology and the people together.”

“That’s so simple, but provocative and true,” Popwell adds. “Those who can really leverage the technology and think about how to use it in an appropriate, ethical way, are going to continue to help lead the innovation curve.”

Remember healthcare innovation is a team sport, inside and outside their organization
“If you only [research or experiment] it for a clinic or a hospital or one area, one certain population of our patients, that's not effective. You have to be able to spread it,” Richardville says, discussing how discoveries should advance the whole healthcare industry.

Communication and collaboration are key in any healthcare undertaking. Especially when implementing new technology, leaders must ensure teams are communicating effectively and working together towards common goals. They must recognize the value of sharing information and best practices with each other to drive innovation across the organization. The same principals extend beyond the organization as well. As with earlier clinical innovations like MRIs and PET scans, which were incubated at Stony Brook Medicine, innovations in digitization and AI must be shared between healthcare organizations to foster progress across the industry.

As Popwell describes, “healthcare is not just a team sport within the organization… it's a team sport across the ecosystem. The more we share with one another how to overcome barriers, the better we all are and the better it is for all of the communities we serve.”

Commit to measurable growth
Healthcare leaders who innovate technology have a mindset of curiosity and discovery, and also are prepared to do what it takes to put their discoveries into practice. This incorporates their mindsets of curiosity and discovery, their willingness to collaborate and be nimble, and their dedication to finding solutions that ultimately optimize their workforce and serve their patients.

“Sometimes it takes agility, sometimes it takes tenacity,” Popwell emphasizes. “Sometimes it takes the old fashioned process of getting people in a room, helping them to see…the vision of what could be, and then getting them excited about that vision, how they can help move the vision forward together.”

Directing that excitement toward a feasible end goal is also key to making strides in innovation.

“I think it’s still maintaining the passion and desire,” Richardville advises, “But focusing on what we can actually deliver right away, while preparing for when that hype does hopefully become a reality at some point.”

On the whole healthcare innovation process, Richardville concludes, “Be a student for life and also a teacher for life. Listen and learn from others. You don't have all the answers, but somebody probably does. Not only within your industry, but outside.”

The results I’ve seen from healthcare leaders who innovated through technology partners, particularly in AI, prove this out.

To see some of these successes from other health systems, or hear our full discussion on “Using AI to Innovate Hospital Operations and Support the Healthcare Workforce”, explore the Transform Hospital Operations Virtual Summit on-demand.

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