3 key takeaways from experts on accelerating health care innovation


EXPO.health panel featured leaders from Brigham Health, GE Healthcare, Nokia and UPMC discussing how to accelerate and scale health care innovation

At the Expo.health conference in Boston, the Center for Connected Medicine (CCM) brought together health care leaders from Brigham Health, GE Healthcare, Nokia, and UPMC for a panel discussion on how health care organizations are accelerating innovation. The session was moderated by Zariel Johnson, PhD, Program Manager, UPMC Enterprises, and featured the following panelists:

  • Adam Landman, MD, Chief Information Officer, Brigham Health
  • Travis Frosch, Global Data Strategy Leader, GE Healthcare
  • Karl Bream, Vice President of Strategy and Portfolio, Nokia Enterprise

The group shared insights into cutting-edge innovation at their organizations, reacted to the new CCM research report Trends for Scaling Innovation in Health Care, and shed light on industry factors affecting innovation. Read on for key takeaways.

Once the C-suite focuses on process, you’re ready to scale

The panel emphasized process and governance as integral to accelerating health care innovation. Process is so fundamental to the ability to scale innovation that Mr. Bream said, “When the C-suite focuses on process, that’s when you’re ready to scale.”

Dr. Landman outlined two relevant processes for accelerating health care innovation:

  1. An “intake funnel” is essential to catalogue and prioritize opportunities so teams can assess what to pilot.
  2. An evaluation mechanism is needed to determine what has been successful so that leaders can rapidly and definitively decide whether to proceed or terminate a project.

Dr. Johnson shared the significance of process through an example of her work with the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance (PHDA). The Alliance, which seeks to improve health care using big data, is a partnership between Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, and UPMC.

“An agreed-upon process is integral to achieving alignment among partners and moving projects forward,” she said. “The PHDA intake funnel is a project solicitation and review process that has allowed the Alliance to identify 400 potential health IT projects, review 80 finalists, and ultimately fund 30 opportunities.”


[Download “Trends for Scaling Innovation in Health Care” Report]

Structure is significant

Panelists noted several important structures needed to accelerate innovation in health care:

  • Innovation groups or departments. These groups, often in partnership with their commercial clients, are responsible for leading and implementing technology at scale.
  • Dedicated budget. Allocation of funds is key to accelerating innovation.
  • Collaborative teams. Obtaining expertise and buy-in from cross-functional teams, including functions such as chief data and informatics officers – relatively new roles at many health care organizations – can serve to accelerate innovation.

At GE Healthcare, a framework called Fastworks is one guiding structure intended to accelerate innovation. “Fastworks was created three years ago to help us get to market faster with goods, services and innovative solutions,” Mr. Frosch said.

Mr. Frosch also said the right team structure can prevent projects from stalling in the transition between early learnings and commercialization.

“Creation of roles focusing on innovation, such as chief data officers and chief innovation officers, is a shift at the C-suite level, and it’s having an impact on innovation,” he said.

The Brigham Digital Innovation Hub (iHub) and UPMC Enterprises are examples of health system innovation groups working collaboratively across their affiliated health systems to accelerate innovation.

In addition to his role as chief information officer of Brigham Health, Dr. Landman leads Brigham’s iHub. Landman explained that the iHub is about more than standing up technology — it’s about achieving the quadruple aim, which is the Institute for Health Improvement Triple Aim plus an additional aim identified by Christine Sinsky, MD, which is to improve clinician or staff experience.

iHub endeavors to achieve this by spreading a culture of innovation across the organization; identifying and solving hospital challenges with digital solutions; and supporting internal innovators in their quest to solve challenges.


[Watch the CCM webinar: How top health systems build and implement innovation]

Innovation priorities should focus on the patient

The Trends for Scaling Health Care Innovation research identified top health system innovation priority areas as access, information technology/data analytics and patient/consumer engagement. When asked what this told panelists about health care innovation, Mr. Bream said, “There has been a natural progression away from talking about cost and efficiencies in operations; the top three priorities indicate health systems are focusing on the patient.”

Mr. Bream added, “As health care becomes even more connected and digitized, other areas — like automation, positioning and location — will surface as priorities.”

Mr. Bream correlated the three focus areas with connectivity infrastructure and explained how innovation in connectivity affects health care innovation, such as real-time health care. “Connection is pliant and can be adapted based on application and usage,” he said. “Systems can change how quickly and how much data can be pushed through based on the criticalness of that data.”


[Infographic: Six practices for scaling innovation in health care]

Looking for more about innovation in health care?

Explore “Trends for Scaling Innovation in Health Care,” a report by the CCM about research conducted in partnership with The Health Management Academy or watch a webinar featuring executives at Duke, Yale New Haven Health, innovationOchsner, and UPMC discussing their views and approaches to innovation in health care.

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