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Capturing Culture

November 10, 2010
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Why innovation matters, and what the Innovator Awards program means

After over 20 years in healthcare publishing, there is one constant element I’ve found in all my reporting on innovative patient care organizations. In every single case (and I’m talking about many hundreds of cases altogether!), those hospitals, medical groups, and health systems that have made significant advances in any area of activity, whether it be core clinical care or patient safety improvement, clinician effectiveness, significant cost savings, clinical transformation facilitated by information technology, or improvement in the patient experience, have done so in a definite cultural context. In other words, individual leaders and groups of leaders have emerged in those organizations who have taken personal risks to become change agents and move forward on change; and over time, their efforts have created cultures of innovation, curiosity, collaboration, and transparency.

This has been very clear to me in such organizations as Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and Detroit Medical Center, whose healthcare IT leader teams were first-place winners in our Innovator Award program in 2010 and 2009 respectively, as well as in such organizations as Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and Hill Physicians Medical Group, all organizations I’ve visited in the past and with whose leaders I’ve spent time listening and learning, as I’ve written articles and books about important trends and developments in our industry.

And what I can tell you is that it’s completely unsurprising that such organizations consistently receive recognition for their diverse innovations, not only from programs like our Innovator Awards program, but from recognition programs across the industry, because the specific innovations they get recognized for are the tip of a cultural iceberg of innovative bounty.

Indeed, healthcare tends to be an industry with a particularly dramatic bell curve when it comes to innovation. Arising out of a particular history of typically conservative, custodial management cultures, most patient care organizations have been slow to move into the more innovative, entrepreneurial world into which healthcare is now evolving, and must evolve.

Still, it is my personal wish that more and more patient care organizations evolve forward into cultures of innovation. The ultimate ideal would be that so much innovation would be taking place that it would become difficult to distinguish between leader and follower organizations in our industry.

Until that time comes, we at Healthcare Informatics remain committed to doing our part to encourage innovation in our sector of the industry. I look forward to receiving as many entries as possible to our Innovator Awards program, before the final deadline of Nov. 17. Has your organization got an innovative program or initiative you’re proud of? We want to know, and so do your peers. I firmly believe there are many, many innovations taking place out in our industry that few even know about outside the organizations in which they are taking place. But every innovation that sees the light of day adds still one more link to the chain of healthcare system transformation that needs to take place in the coming years.

In the end, it’s my nature to be an optimist. Someday, our industry will be completely transformed by all the innovative work being led by healthcare leaders system-wide; in the meantime, let us recognize and celebrate all the innovations we can, going forward, and support one another as our industry moves forward on a complex, never-ending journey.

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