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Emphasize innovation in healthcare, starting today

February 5th, 2014

by Raymond Hino

I recently attended a focus group session on best practices for innovation in large organizations. The session, sponsored by the Institute for Innovation in Large Organizations, focused on predicting and developing new markets, new products and new ways of doing business.

I realized immediately that we in healthcare must promote innovation if we are to successfully navigate major industry changes.

We are being rocked, as an industry, by the Affordable Care Act, ICD-10, value-based purchasing, Medicare and Medicaid cuts, and a multitude of other pressures. I learned during the session that it is becoming more common to move innovation into the C-suite with the creation of the chief innovation officer (CIO) position. How many of our hospitals have recognized the need for a chief innovation officer position?

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The UCLA Health System is one that has. Its CIO is well-known and highly regarded healthcare industry leader, Molly Coye, M.D. Coye informed us that at UCLA, innovation is part of the senior executive team.

And it makes sense that UCLA and other large healthcare organizations have recognized the importance of innovation. How else will we transform our hospitals and healthcare organizations from our historical base of fee-for-service medicine to payment for quality? How else will we create new programs, which emphasize wellness over sickness and for which we are able to realize a reasonable return on investment?

I also learned that we as healthcare organizations can and should begin to emphasize innovation starting today. An easy first step is to look for innovation that already is happening in your organization. What are you doing to create new products services, processes or a new business model? I found one in my organization. Last year our hospital created a music video that won sixth place nationally in the 2013 Medline Pink Glove Dance video competition.

This was no small feat for a small hospital located in a small community, which was competing with Goliath healthcare organizations from all over the country. We had no prior experience in doing anything like this before. But the professionalism and the joy in our video became infectious and it was a sensation that rallied our entire community in support of our hospital. It also ignited social media attention on us and did more to promote the brand name of our hospital than anything else we had done for years. That is innovation.

Here are some more tips on innovation: Lower the cost of failure in your organization. Place more value on new discoveries and less value on reaching for safe and expected outcomes.

Perhaps you have heard of the story of Col. Harland Sanders, who suffered numerous failures and rejections in his life until he hit it big with his Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise chain at the age of 65! His innovation was that he created one of the first restaurant franchise chains. Imagine what would have happened if Sanders accepted early failures and did not prevail.

We need to cultivate the Col. Sanders wannabes in our organizations if we are going to prevail as well.

Raymond Hino, MPA, FACHE, serves as CEO of California's Bear Valley Community Healthcare District.

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