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Organizing for Health Innovation – A Brief Guide for Health IT Leaders

Brainstorming session

How do health IT leaders align, organize and act to ensure we are positively contributing to our organizations’ competitive edge?

The key to health innovation is to be as agile as possible while rapidly adjusting to the requirements of our customer base.

A Starting Model

The Donabedian model assesses the quality of healthcare services provided using three measurements:

  1. Structure
  2. Process
  3. Outcomes

A health IT leader looking for effective health innovation must ensure that the processes, enabled by a good supporting structure, are in place.

Supporting Structure

Following the example of the Donabedian model, the first pillar to success for a culture that supports health innovation is an empowered supporting structure: a strong team and a workspace layout that increases synergy.

A Strong Team
From a structural standpoint, what are the characteristics of a good innovator for a winning team?

First, curious go-getters: this group must constantly scan their internal and external environments looking for best practices to expand upon and take to the next level. People comfortable getting out to research best ideas and to engage with industry partners to understand why certain things worked for them.

The team should also have a high level of domain expertise. They should intimately understand the business units they support so they can identify pain points and points of opportunity. They have to understand how to integrate into the current workflow, or how to change the workflow without losing the required essential capability.

Another important quality is good project management skills along with the various proficiencies that a respectable project manager should have. Crucial among them is excellent communications skills. An innovator must be able to relay back to the business unit leaders the value that a new health innovation will bring to the organization.

Workspace Layout
Cross-functional teams are a great means for getting input from different perspectives. A homogenous group skilled in one field may miss an important aspect without including subject matter experts from different specialty areas. Putting these teams in a common workspace and removing barriers to communication, such as high cubicle walls, and placing white boards around the room for ad-hoc idea exploration enables collaborative learning to take place and improves collaboration.

When teams are not able to be near one another, leverage technology to enhance communication. Video teleconferences and shared online collaboration boards help to enable information dissemination and build team familiarity. The goal should be to support transparency and to welcome feedback to support rapid adjustment to courses of action if a need exists. This leads to the second enabling pillar: organizational processes.

Enabling Processes

It is not sufficient just to have a skilled workforce on hand, the team must be engaged in the correct processes to create the desired outcomes. So, the second pillar borrowed from the Donabedian model is having the right processes in place.

Foundational Project Management
Understanding that a health innovation brings about a new or improved process or product, it is logical to use best practices for managing the delivery of the innovation. The bottom line should be: Having great ideas is fantastic, but can you bring them to market?

Organizing for health innovation must include good project management processes to ultimately deliver real value to customers.

Agile Development Practices
Health innovations can be transformative or even an optimization of current operations. For a healthcare organization to keep its competitive edge, health IT leaders should push to ensure they have a skilled and knowledgeable team, plus the best structures and processes to ensure that goals are realized.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog or by commenters are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.

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