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Healthcare Professionals Lead HIMSS Virtual Conference on Innovation

June 6, 2013
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Conference attendees gain an in-depth understanding of innovation that can help them get jump-started at their own organizations

At the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Virtual Conference on June 5, leaders from various healthcare organizations around the country came together with the aim to serve as an inspiration to other providers looking for ways to unlock the potential within their organizations.

According to HIMSS officials, in order to realize the full potential of innovation, healthcare must creatively accelerate the speed, delivery and quality of its problem-solving efforts. To do so, health IT professionals and organization leadership must understand the opportunities and challenges inherent in a myriad of factors that act as both barriers and inspirations to innovators seeking improved care delivery. By identifying innovative technologies and practices that positively impact the care experience, individual and population health, as well as reduce costs, provider organizations can realize the full potential of health IT and improve the quality of life for all.

Speaking to a conference with about 200 virtual attendees, keynote speaker Tom Lloyd, director of operations at the Vanderbilt Center for Better Health, spoke about how he has helped the Center improve healthcare delivery. Lloyd has helped Vanderbilt develop a health information exchange in Memphis, Tenn. for 1.2 million people, and collaborate with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on an initiative involving personal health records. Lloyd noted that the use of design and innovation processes have quadrupled in the business sector in recent years. “There has been a lot of progress made,” he acknowledged.

The conference kicked off with Jonathan Teich, M.D., emergency physician, at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) in Boston, and CMIO of Elsevier, a provider of scientific, technical and medical products and services, who presented, “Imagining Innovation Across Healthcare.” Teich feels that there are many different ways to define innovation. “Are you talking about cultural and people processes or about jazzy new technology?” he asked.  He then added that thousands of people in health systems across the country are concerned on how to improve innovation. “The challenge,” said Teich, “is taking the knowledge gained and repurposing it for meaning.”

 Teich said that innovation gets driven by a new occurrence such as a new requirement (presence of a new disease), a new technology (dealing with micro technologies, having internet connection with everything) or a new health process. As far as where innovations will stem from, Teich thinks it can come from a variety of places, including electronic health record (EHR) vendors, providers, other HIT suppliers such as knowledge companies, the government, and even patients themselves. “Each of these has the ability to be the site of innovation,” he said.

Rasu Shrestha, M.D., radiologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), spoke next, during his presentation, “Creating a Culture of Innovation,” emphasizing that it’s necessary for people not to be blinded by buzzwords such as ACO, big data, vendor-neutral archive, and cloud-based. “When we see vendors using these words, that doesn’t mean they’re being innovative; it’s not true innovation. There is a process to innovation,” he said.

As far as strategic innovation at UPMC, Shrestha has embraced the data elements of healthcare, but said the next important step is to “move from data to knowledge, whether on the imaging side or in clinical documentation.” He said one of the main goals at UPMC is intelligent healthcare. “What we’ve seen is steady progress from paper to electronics, whether through EHRs or PACs, but what I continue to push for is to catapult ourselves to the next level.”

By asking the right questions and recognizing that the process of innovation takes time and consistent work, Shrestha believes any healthcare organization can position itself to take advantage of a whole new level of opportunity. These questions, according to Shrestha, include: Where to innovate? Who to target? What to offer? How to innovate? With whom to partner? When to innovate? What if?

At the end of the day, there are three pillars of innovation, he said—good science, smart technology, and new methods of care.