'De-innovation': How Cleveland Clinic and more determine which processes to nix

While most conversations about hospital innovation center around which new initiatives health systems have up and running, a less glamorous yet important piece of the conversation centers on which programs have been discontinued.

Deciding which projects are not working or where resources can be put to better use is not always easy, and many health systems shy away from discussing it. However, learning from errors and building on them for future projects can help keep innovation fresh and beneficial to patients and staff. 

Healthcare leaders should combine adoption with elimination to advance healthcare delivery, David Asch, MD, executive director of the Center for Health Care Innovation at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, told Becker's. 

"There's a resistance to innovation and it's a term I like to call 'de-innovation'" Dr. Asch said. "It's hard for some clinicians to adopt new practices, but it's even harder to give up old practices that no longer serve or benefit health systems." 

Christopher Coburn, Boston-based Mass General Brigham's chief innovation officer, agreed, saying hospitals should apply the same enthusiasm they have when launching new projects to asking the hard questions about which operations might need to be eliminated.

Mr. Coburn said hospitals would also benefit from revisiting questions they asked when launching their existing innovation projects, as circumstances may have shifted and new performance measures may have emerged.

By eliminating processes that no longer serve them, hospitals gain opportunities to reduce technology debt. Matt Kull, Cleveland Clinic's CIO, told Becker's that with every new technology platform his organization implements, its application rationalization team ensures data from the legacy applications is archived and the technology is sunset.

The approach has reduced technology expenses by millions of dollars, according to Mr. Kull.

Providence has also reduced its legacy technology debt in recent years by moving away from on-premise applications and toward the cloud. B.J. Moore, the Renton, Wash.-based system's CIO, said this move has helped Providence standardize its cloud solutions, simplify its app ecosystem and modernize its storage.

Mr. Moore also said the system's strategy for developing digital health solutions has evolved from a fragmented approach seeking to "prioritize thousands of feature requirements" to an approach that builds end-to-end patient journeys and develops solutions that meet a specific user experience.

Sunsetting technologies and programs is a way to improve new ones, save money by eliminating legacy systems and measure performance. Although the decision to give up old projects and technology may come with challenges, experts are adamant the process can ensure health systems continue to serve their communities, patients and staff efficiently and effectively.

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