Innovation means creating for the right circumstances

Santosh Mohan of the HIMSS Innovation Committee and Intermountain’s Todd Dunn on the importance of innovators and providers teaming up.
By Laura Lovett
03:13 pm

Progress in the healthcare industry often means a lot of back and forth between outside innovators and providers — and the two don’t always see eye to eye. But both are essential for progress.  

“Most of the startups are in a hurry and most of healthcare is not, so how how do we navigate this?” Santosh Mohan of the HIMSS Innovation Committee said at the Innovation Symposium at HIMSS19.

But one of the keys to moving innovation forward is having a theory to unite the industry behind, Todd Dunn, director of the Innovation at Intermountain Healthcare Transformation Lab, said at HIMSS19 yesterday. He suggested the healthcare innovation industry adopt Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen’s theory of the job that needs to be done theory, which stresses the “progress that someone is trying to make in a particular circumstance.”

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But both startups and the healthcare systems can benefit from working together. He said that when innovating, it is of paramount importance to spend time with the group you are innovating for and know the circumstances.

Too often innovators have the disease of the three C’s — they spend too much time in conference rooms, conference calls and cubes, Dunn said. A way to remedy this is to add a fourth C: Context. Developers also need to keep three aspects at the center of innovation — method, empathy and curiosity.

“The problem we have in innovation is we have this Tower of Babel business model,” Dunn said. “Do you really understand your consumer’s jobs to be done?”

While the innovators have to hold up their end of really learning about health system, the providers also need a system that supports innovation.

Mohan said that health systems often lack clarity on metrics, not sharing the operational realities with the innovator. And poor communication can lead to poor partnerships.

One hospital that, according to Mohan, is doing innovation right is Brigham and Women’s Hospital with their iHub innovation center. One of the reasons it works is because it helps innovators and providers interact.

“It is supported by dedicated funding and the staff acts as a bridge between different organizations, creating an infrastructure and a model,” Mohan said.

While knowing the population you are innovating for is important, that doesn’t mean a pilot is going to fix everything. Pilots often get overused, said Mohan. There can be a lack of clarity and direction in pilots. That’s why it is important to have communication from the get-go. But there are other options than just pilots to enable innovation.

Mohan also stressed the importance of having guidelines for innovation. In October, the American Medical Association, the largest physician organization in the country, released a playbook outlining best practices for innovations. Mohan said initiatives like this might be the keys to success in the future.

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