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Top Healthcare Innovation Programs in IT, and What Clinics Can Learn

Growth does not typically occur on its own. Instead, it is largely dependent on an organization’s ability to adapt to change. Growth, particularly in healthcare, takes innovation.

Dr. Brita Hansen, CMO of LogicStream Health, recently spoke to Becker’s Hospital Review about how big hospitals are becoming bigger through growth initiatives of their own. “The big picture is the concept of clinical effectiveness,” Dr. Hansen said. “All these added pressures from consolidation and financial burdens are requiring hospitals and health systems to prove clinical effectiveness. At the heart of all of this is the clinical process itself — the way we deliver care every day.”

A big part of growing a clinic involves improving and innovative upon clinical processes. That’s precisely what the big healthcare systems are doing. Below, we highlight four such healthcare systems. Their stories demonstrate how data-driven innovation can fuel growth, and what smaller clinics can do to follow suit.

Atlantic Health System

Atlantic Health System, based in New Jersey, recently launched their own innovation center and idea incubator. Atlantic Health Advancements is designed to “generate ideas that will enhance care delivery, improve clinical outcomes and reduce costs” for the system’s 16,000 employees and 3,700 physicians. 

The key to this newly formed center is that it is entirely internal. The center lets Atlantic Health’s nurses, doctors and administrators take on innovation for themselves. Vince Calio, writing at NJBiz, calls Atlantic Health Advancements an “internal idea incubator” that encourages employees “to develop new ideas and products that improve and lower the cost of healthcare.” 

One example is the center’s initial product, called the Insulin Safety Secure Initiative (ISSI) Box. The box stores excess insulin, avoiding confusion and waste. The product was developed in-house by a pharmacist and a nurse at one of Atlantic Health’s clinics. The idea is simple enough, but Calio reports that the ISSI Box could save the hospital system $100,000 every year.

Joe Wilkins, senior VP and chief transformation officer at Atlantic Health, highlighted why staff are so important to the innovation process. He said the center is a “formalized way to collect their ideas, test them, and further hone them into tangible solutions to improve practice and outcomes.” In other words, Atlantic Health recognizes innovation as both a long-term goal and internal process. 

What This Means for Smaller Clinics 

Small and mid-sized clinics across the country may not have the resources that Atlantic Health had to start its own innovation center. But there’s a lesson to be learned here nonetheless: Clinics can learn a lot about the relative efficiency of its systems directly from staff.

With the right tools, clinics can harness that insight and translate it into actionable steps for improving everything from intake to patient visits. Taking the time to listen can save you money in the long term. 

Baystate Health

In 2014, Baystate Health launched TechSpring, its digital innovation center. The Massachusetts-based center has taken a unique approach to driving innovation by opening up the entire Baystate Health system and its 12,000 employees to technology companies focusing on improving health care practices and processes. 

By giving access to the system, the innovation center lets tech companies test health technologies in the real world. These companies can see how their patient monitoring software or new solution to medical records work in the healthcare environment. TechSpring calls this the “living lab.”

“TechSpring works with stakeholders in the health system to identify passionate problems in today’s environment and attempts to find innovators or companies that have been working on transformative solutions that can address them,” writes Bill Siwicki at Healthcare IT News. 

“TechSpring partners with these innovators and facilitates a project between them and the healthcare stakeholder, in an effort to help them prove – and improve – their solution in a real-world healthcare environment.”

One example of this at work is TechSpring’s partnership with CarePort, which tested its post-acute care management system in cooperation with Baystate. By the end of the year, CarePort had successfully improved the discharge process at one of Baystate’s medical centers in Springfield and was ready to launch as a database of certified Medicare post-acute providers. 

What This Means for Smaller Clinics 

More than anything, the partnerships that TechSpring forms in order to test healthcare IT solutions shows just how important it is to try new technologies — even for smaller clinics.

Legacy systems and processes can only go so far for clinics that have the goal of improving efficiency and their bottom line. Instead, finding the right software system — or even taking an analytical approach to introducing changes — will pay off over the long term.

Boston Children’s Hospital

The Boston Children’s Hospital’s Innovation & Digital Health Accelerator may be a mouthful, but it has introduced a host of digital innovations beneficial to the healthcare sector. According to Lauren Dyrda at Becker’s Hospital Review, the hospital launched the center “to broaden its digital health offerings and encompass remote care services, clinical decision support tools and interoperable technologies.” 

As an accelerator, the innovation center works differently than either of the two highlighted above. The center’s function is to drive the growth of healthcare IT startups with the goal of expanding Boston Children’s Hospital’s services and pediatric expertise.

“Digital technologies promise to transform health care,” write Carla E. Small, Matthew Murphy, Kevin Churchwell and John Brownstein in an account of the center for Harvard Business Review. “Frontline clinicians can and should play a central role in inventing those new applications. But they can’t do it alone. To succeed, they require an array of specialized support and an innovation system that understands their special needs.” 

In other words, the goal of the accelerator is to provide that support and system to those who can drive digital transformation.

What This Means for Smaller Clinics 

The lesson for smaller clinics here is in that last quote. Clinicians and administrators should be at the forefront of developing new solutions for clinical practices. But in order to so, they need the technical insight for how to bring these improvements about.

For Boston Children’s Hospital, this meant an acceleration program that creates in-house healthcare applications. For smaller clinics, it can be as simple as partnering with an analytics or HIT provider that can guide improvement efforts.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

MSKCC’s Department of Strategy & Innovation in New York City simultaneously focuses on design, analytics and strategy to drive the future of the cancer center. The department works with administrators, front-line clinicians and patients to coordinate more innovative care. 

The goal is to make the hardware and software at MSKCC as human-focused as possible. One result of the Strategy & Innovation center is the development of a mobile app, with which patients can manage their appointments, view test results and communicate with the clinic. The department has also developed broader level solutions for administration, including an inpatient census forecaster using data analytics, a case tracker and a business intelligence dashboard.

Another example is MSKCC sharing its 25 million slides of patient tissues with medical research company Paige.AI. While he points out that there may be privacy concerns with this level of private partnership, Steven Petrow at the Washington Post writes that he was “exhilarated by the promise of quicker and more accurate cancer diagnoses as a result of the digitization and sharing of the hospital’s tissue slides.” 

What This Means for Smaller Clinics  

The innovation at MSKCC shows the importance of placing the patient at the center of any innovation efforts a clinic may undertake.

While improving the bottom line is certainly a business goal, it can be seen as just one goal alongside improving patient experience and satisfaction. Things like improving patient flow and wait times help meet both. Digital innovation can make your clinic both more efficient and more patient-centric.

Images by: rawpixelLeslie Reagan Bodin

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