Innovation in Healthcare: Both the Right Technologies and Right Attitude Are Required

Posted by Gary Winzenread

September 19, 2016 at 12:52 PM


The other day I had an experience that confirmed why innovation in healthcare can be so difficult. I was in a meeting with a few health system executives, including the chief innovation officer and VP of patient experience. They were talking about their need for more targeted and effective patient communications as part of their overall approach to care coordination. That these were senior executives demonstrated to me that innovation and patient engagement are high priorities for this system.

After I briefly described that Cordata specialty care coordination platforms feature tools to automate and personalize patient communications, they recognized how streamlining the time-intensive task of patient communication would free up human care coordinators to focus on high-risk cases. Typically, the patients at the greatest risk of non-compliance with treatment plans (and therefore for readmission) are those with the most complex or chronic conditions.

The executives seemed most interested in how communications could influence patient behavior in the areas of event or procedure follow-up and side effects management, with the end goals of reducing readmissions and patient outmigration. I was of course delighted later when they told me they’d refer me to their IT leadership.

The email introduction went out later the same day. Within 15 minutes, IT had sent a note back to me saying, basically, “no thanks, not interested.” I was surprised, but not shocked, having been in the healthcare technology trenches for some time now. Certainly I get that the IT folks don’t want to spend any time with salespeople. And I know that IT groups have huge workloads. Still, the suggestion that IT look at our technology came from senior leaders in clinical and patient-facing roles. And still IT had not even a glimmer of interest! We didn’t even get the common response of “Oh, we plan to use our EMR for that!”

The experience left me thinking that innovation in healthcare is not just about interoperability (which will be a catalyzing force for using technology more intelligently and effectively), but also a matter of attitude. IT groups are so focused on standardizing on whatever EMR platform they spent a fortune on that they are overlooking potentially transformative solutions – including those that are cost-effective and relatively easy to implement. Further, some IT groups are so focused on the “trees” of their immediate implementation and integration projects that they lose sight of the “forest” of delivering high-quality patient experience and effective treatments to human beings.

Clearly, there are CIOs who get innovation in healthcare and see that it is about mastering the human side of care (better outcomes and enhanced patient experiences) and using technology in ways that make for a more economically sustainable system (reducing preventable readmissions and lowering the cost of care). It’s a hard enough task without shutting down collaboration opportunities between IT and clinical leadership. Innovation is very much a team sport in healthcare, and IT is a huge part of the equation. Forward-looking healthcare CIOs are the ones who can strike the right balance of standardization platforms and highly targeted lightweight tools for specific capabilities (like care coordination and patient engagement) that EMRs are not designed to handle.

Overall, EMRs have been good for healthcare. It is a technology that had to be built as a foundation for more data-driven healthcare. However, at many healthcare organizations, the way they are implemented and managed has become a barrier to the broad-based and holistic innovation that is required to deliver better clinical outcomes for patients and better business results for hospitals and health systems.

Topics: Technology, Patient Engagement, EMR

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