Why Innovate

Sarah Ingersoll, 4 June 2015

Everyone seems to be talking about “innovation” these days, but what exactly does innovation mean for you and your health care?

On May 13, I spent an inspirational day hearing from healthcare thought leaders and entrepreneurs from across the globe at the 1776 Challenge Festival Health Conference sponsored by MedStar Health; a week later I spent two vibrant days organized by BluePrint Healthcare Innovation Exchange with representatives from 26 health innovation centers from across the country and England — and my head is spinning with ideas and opportunities for innovating in the healthcare arena.

1412301386_thumb.jpegHealth care is dramatically changing. As Mark Smith, Chief Innovation Officer at MedStar and Director of the MedStar Institute for Innovation noted in his recent blog, there are three key trends to note:#1 The patient will be in charge.#2 Clinical incentives will align with financial incentives. #3 Health systems will provide ongoing caring for health (not episodic treatment of illness) in multiple settings and platforms — and very diverse data sources will provide deep insight into individual diagnoses and treatment.

These trends are very exciting and are inspiring huge activity in the field of health – investors, entrepreneurs, software developers, and engineers are clamoring to contribute to the future of the industry. The changes are making people recombine old things, open new doors, forge new connections, bridge disciplines, reframe their biases, adapt, risk error or even failure, and cause “happy accidents” leading to new intersections (aspects of the seven principles that Stephen Johnson says have driven innovation across the centuries. (“Where Good Ideas Come From”).

Reflecting the vast opportunity for innovation in the health space, the 1776 Challenge Festival health startup competitors were as varied as one can imagine – web platforms for tracking supplies, identifying open critical care beds, treating anxiety, managing chronic illness and physical therapy; ways to analyze food, water, and blood; social enterprises; devices; data analytics; mobile messaging; and more. Likewise, health innovation centers across the country (as reported in a recent report of survey findings from the Commonwealth Fund) are doing everything from ideation and prototyping to scaling and commercializing to transform care coordination (90%), disease specific outcomes (87%), access (87%), patient engagement (84%), workflow efficiencies (77%), population health (77%), clinical decision support (74%), intraprofessional communication (71%), utilization (68%), home-based care (65%), wellness (65%) and more.

In this sea of change, Dr. Smith identifies 4 rules for where individuals can look to innovate. As he often says, “innovation is all around us.” Each of us can unlock the innovator in us and at some point has thought about how we might do something better to improve a patient’s care or experience the system in a more positive way. Now is the time to turn those ideas into reality. Each of us can make a difference by learning more about startups and giving them feedback, helping test their concepts in our clinics, developing our own ideas into inventions, or learning to think differently. For MedStar employees, the MedStar Institute for Innovation supports you in transforming your ideas into a commercial products, learning from other health innovators, approaching old problems with new frames, making sure the new technology you buy is smart and safe, educating your team through the latest tools and technologies, and more.

In health care today, there’s no excuse not to innovate. The Chinese word for “crisis” is composed of two characters, one representing danger and the other, opportunity. We can be bogged down by the “danger” of regulation, using unfriendly electronic health records, decreased time, and inappropriate payment – or we can seize the opportunity to transform how we approach birth, death, and everything in between .

Sarah Ingersoll, 2015

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