Saturday, February 02, 2013

The Healing Edge: At the Intersection of Innovation and HIT

Three years ago I was asked by Marion Ball, EdD (a well respected informaticist and long-time colleague) to write a book about the intersection of healthcare IT and innovation.  I was smart enough to initially say no, but she kept asking because she knew I had been combining my long background in informatics with a newer interest in the science of innovation as part of the Szollosi Healthcare Innovation Program, a charitable organization I established in 2007 with a mission to use creative thinking and diverse technologies to produce a better healthcare experience for patients, physicians and others associated with their care.  

After about 6 months I finally accepted the challenge, realizing that since I was an early pioneer in this world of HIT meets innovation - I might as well try and give the area a good book.   I was wise enough to quickly get a partner in this endeavor, the amazing Chris McCarthy, MPH, MBA.  Chris is a friend and my #1 innovation mentor, as well as the Director of the Innovation Learning Network and an Innovation Specialist with Kaiser Permanente’s Innovation Consultancy.  We liked the idea of storytelling and wanted to make the book an enjoyable read about the many awesome healthcare innovators who have used IT to make the healthcare system better, faster and/or cheaper.  We also realized that it would make sense to truly hear the "voice of the innovators" by having them each write their own stories within the framework we created.

The result is our book, Innovation with Information Technology in Healthcare, which describes the stories of over 20 organizations who have combined innovative thinking with information technologies to improve their processes of care and solve a need at their organizations.

The first chapter sets the stage, describing how this work should be viewed like a big cookbook of recipes, with sections on EMR Innovation, Telehealth Innovation, and Advanced Technology Innovation (e.g. analytics, portals, mobile and gaming).  The second chapter describes the science of innovation itself, including an assortment of methodologies which help move the innovation process from ideation to prototyping/piloting to spreading it across an organization.  The authors, from Kaiser's Innovation Consultancy, give examples from the very real work they have done over the past decade.

The rest of the chapters are the stories, written by the innovators themselves, about what they did, why they did it, how they succeeded, lessons learned, and their plans for the future.   It is especially fun to read about the origins of these innovations and peer into how an organization moves from a problem to an innovative new way of doing things. I wrote a short editorial on the "Big Lessons Learned" from these stories, including the following ideas:
  • Use What You Have:  Our first group of stories highlights how a lot of innovation can be made with the underlying HIT you already have in place, especially EMRs.  Examples include use of messaging to support care coordination, CDS tools to support delegation of preventive care and other duties to staff, and reporting tool to identify adverse events.
  • Innovation is More Than Technology.  For innovations to succeed, it's critical to also address culture issues, new business models, legal and political hurdles, and process change.  And, of course, it's often a good idea to be innovative in doing so!  The stories about telehealth give some great examples of this!
  • Look Around.  Learn from all the new technologies and companies appearing in every aspect of our life... from mobile apps to business intelligence to RFID tools to gaming systems.  The final section on Advanced Technologies provides many examples of this rule. 
  • Dream Big (and Wild)!  We all are faced with problems in our healthcare organizations, and while sometimes the answer is a small improvement in what we do, in other cases we truly need to innovate - to rethink how we do everything and at that time it's important to come up with wild and crazy ideas which can really make a difference.  Don't worry, there will be time later to mix in reality and pragmatism - but in brainstorming, don't be afraid to dream big!  

Finally, it's important to understand that we don't expect readers to follow the exact "recipes" in the book, but rather to be inspired and educated to innovate themselves!  Ideally, you will see what others have done and find the "essential innovation" in each story and be able to apply that to your organization.  It is truly meant to serve as both an educational platform for stimulating ideas in any organization, as well as an inspirational read to help you realize that you too can innovate.  Whether you are a CEO, a CIO, a department head, a clinic manager, a physician, a nurse, an empowered patient, an EHR vendor, an HIT consultant, or anyone else involved in the healthcare system, we hope this book helps you in your quest for The Healing Edge!

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