CHLA's Omkar Kulkarni shares 3 core functions of a successful chief innovation officer

As the chief innovation officer at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Omkar Kulkarni is committed to promoting collaboration across the hospital.

Mr. Kulkarni sees innovation within all clinicians and staff at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. He stresses the importance of sharing problems and ideas as well as celebrating successes.

Below, Mr. Kulkarni shares his proudest moment as well as the core three functions of a chief innovation officer.

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

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

Omkar Kulkarni: Less than a year after launching our Innovation Studio, we hosted a hackathon. I was unsure of the response we would receive from the local developer community and from the clinical experts at CHLA. By the end of the hackathon weekend, we had seen over 200 developers participate and over 40 CHLA clinicians and leaders attend and actively engage with the teams. I’m proud of our hackathon, not only because we were able to rapidly develop 18 virtual and augmented reality prototypes, but because the energy in the room and the active participation by the community meant that we had tapped into the innovative spirit of our ecosystem. Launching innovative projects is important but impacting the culture of an organization and local community is powerfully transformative. 
 
Q: How do you promote innovation on your team and within your hospital or health system? 

OK: Everybody is innovative by nature. This is especially true of healthcare workers. The core part of my role is to empower people to voice their ideas and then create a safe space for them to further explore and evaluate their ideas. My team uses tools from the design thinking toolbox that creates structured forums for individuals to turn problems and pain points into ideas and then prototypes. And then we share. We share and celebrate our successes publicly and we talk about our failures. We have an idea competition, open to everyone and anyone at CHLA. The competition encourages CHLA team members to submit ideas for ways to improve the way we do things. We call it Better, Faster, Cheaper, to provide a framework by which ideas will be evaluated. This competition has sparked the interest of many CHLA team members, especially front-line staff. 
 
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? 

OK: Innovation officers have three main functions:

1: To build and support the infrastructure in an organization to enable friction-less innovation.

2: To sit atop the lighthouse, searching for the cutting-edge innovation coming across the horizon.

3: To partner with technologists to influence the development of purpose-built solutions to the pain points of health systems.

As healthcare delivery models evolve towards value-based care and consumer-driven care, innovation officers will need to help organizations continuously redefine the “value” of new ideas that are pitched or new technologies that are developed.

More articles on innovation:
City of Hope's chief digital officer on crafting a strategy that avoids 'digitization for the sake of digitization'
Viewpoint: Innovation is so much more than new IT
5 trends driving innovation in global healthcare

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