How hospitals can be a 'laboratory' for innovation

Hospitals should formalize their strategy, define what innovation looks like and encourage clinicians to think outside of the box as they pursue innovation. Here, four hospital chief innovation officers share strategies on how to create a pro-innovation environment.

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

Thomas Graham, MD. Chief Innovation & Transformation Officer of Kettering Health (Ohio). This salient question makes hospitals and systems consider whether they have the aptitude and attitude for innovation. It all starts with establishing your institution's definition of "innovation" and making sure it reflects the inherent mission and capacity of the organization, then make innovation an enterprise imperative by recognizing and rewarding the creative culture. 

Also, practice innovation as a process-oriented, metrics-driven discipline and recognize and celebrate innovation and innovators through structured events, awards and deployment of resources. Let your hospital be a "laboratory" to try new things — whether organic or reaching the organization from the outside, invest in innovation — whether it's time, C-suite support or dollars, back innovation initiatives and send the message that "fast frugal failure" is acceptable.

Jonathan Griffin, MD. Chief Medical Innovation Officer at St. Peter's Health (Chicago). From my perspective, effective innovation starts with a well-sponsored plan, purpose, vision and goals. A well-vetted plan with clinical leads, board and executive support is a critical starting point. 

Innovation also necessitates dedicated time and resources focused on developing your selected innovation projects. I have found that there is a balance to strike between incremental continuous improvement, standardization of processes, and step-change innovations for our teams, patients and the community. People engagement and effective change management with teams are also clutch to shift gears using a fun, crawl, walk, run implementation approach for innovation.  

It feels good to successfully implement projects. But the end note for me is pressing forward through hard times, the failures and the flops, pushing through to find joy in new things that innovate my purpose in life in relation to my work.   

Barry Stein, MD. Chief Clinical Innovation Officer at Hartford Healthcare (Conn.). To promote innovation you first need to help your organization understand what innovation means and really give people the "why" behind it. Keep it simple such as innovation is a simple equation idea x execution. 

Help clinicians think about innovation as entrepreneurs. At Hartford Healthcare we bring in startups and match them with clinical mentors. We do this so clinicians can work with entrepreneurs who have a different perspective than them. This allows them to think about innovation differently. 

The last piece is alignment. If innovation is to be taken seriously, the language, the whys and the support need to come from the very top, the CEO. 

Christopher Coburn. Chief Innovation Officer of Mass General Brigham (Boston). Investing in bold, transformative innovation is a growth pillar of Mass General Brigham. This cultural and operational commitment to spark innovation from everywhere in the organization and cultivate research that's directly led by clinicians who are providing the care, puts the patient front and center of everything we do. 

To further innovation for the communities we serve, we're developing programs around diversity, engagement and inclusiveness specific to the innovator community at Mass General Brigham. We believe we need to bring the same level of creativity and resourcefulness to our efforts to aid and enable the faculty that we hope will bring and create new innovations.

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