Fear of Failure Stymies Innovation: Having the Courage to Reimagine Healthcare

The need to innovate in healthcare is well known: Many federal organizations, private companies and hospitals and health systems are encouraging innovation in different ways. Through the State Innovation Model, HHS recently awarded nearly $300 million to states to spur innovation. In January, Guidon Performance Solutions and the Institute for the Future launched an online gaming event designed to foster healthcare innovation. More recently, Stanford (Calif.) School of Medicine hosted the StartX Med/Stanford Hospital Innovation Challenge, a 50-hour weekend event in which healthcare entrepreneurs presented and pursued projects.

Louis Burns is CEO of Intel-GE Care Innovations.Slow or nonexistent change
Despite these efforts, the healthcare industry is still slow to change in several areas. Louis Burns, CEO at Intel-GE Care Innovations, says from a technology point of view healthcare is making significant innovations, such as using telemedicine to connect patients and providers across the country. From a system point of view, however, there is slow or nonexistent innovation. For example, while data has shown that patients prefer to be cared for at home, hospitals have been slow to adopt a home care model and largely persist in a hospital-centric model, according to Mr. Burns.

Walking to the edge and beyond

To overcome this innovation stagnation in healthcare, Mr. Burns says healthcare leaders need to take big risks and reimagine the healthcare delivery system. Currently, most communities' healthcare is centered on the hospital, with physician offices and outpatient settings having a secondary role. "The hospital-centric model needs to be flipped on its ear and rethought," Mr. Burns says. "Imagine a world [in which] 70 to 80 percent of healthcare is in a person's home vs. today, when probably 20 percent maximum is in the home."

Bold changes that rework the entire system of healthcare are required for true innovation to occur. Mr. Burns cites a colleague who said, "You need to walk out to the point where you're uncomfortable, then take two steps forward and you're probably in the right place." Being unafraid of failure, accepting the likelihood — even inevitability — of mistakes and following through with changes can speed and enhance innovation in healthcare, according to Mr. Burns. New models like accountable care organizations and bundled payments are beginning to rework healthcare and force innovation. Taking advantage of opportunities to redesign healthcare delivery is a step toward innovation.

While Mr. Burns maintains the necessity of reimaging healthcare, he also recognizes the difficulty of changing a system that has worked for hundreds of years. "Many people hold on to how it has been because it has worked, and it's difficult to be your own disrupter; but, it's critical to be your own disrupter if you're going to drive true change," he says.

BUT model of innovation

A concept from Intel that could benefit healthcare organizations is the BUT model, according to Mr. Burns. The "B" in the acronym stands for business: People have to change business processes to make improvements. The second element in the model is user, because understanding users of the potential innovation can indicate what they want and need. Finally, the "T" stands for technology, a tool for implementing changes. "Technology unto itself is not the innovation," Mr. Burns says. "It's really a combination of business process [change] with technology and a deep understanding of the user that delivers true innovation."

More Articles on Healthcare Innovation:

3 Considerations for Deciding Whether to Adopt a Healthcare Innovation
HIMSS to Open Innovation Center for Interoperability Testing

St. Joseph Health in California Launches Innovation Institute

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