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Here’s What Makes Henry Ford Health System’s Employee Innovation Program Tick

Posted on November 25, 2014 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Hospitals are increasingly launching efforts designed to leverage new technologies, be they working with healthcare accelerators, taking advantage of employee ideas or setting up onsite centers designed to support a culture of innovation. One institution which has gotten a little further down the road than many of its peers is Henry Ford Health System, whose innovations program has paid off handsomely, generating countless smart, useful inventions from its employees.

So serious is the health system about exploiting its employees’ great ideas that it’s made organized efforts to reward such thinking directly. For example, HFHS just completed the competition among employees to submit their best ideas in clinical applications for wearable technology. The institution not only encouraged employees to participate, but sweetened the pot by offering a total of $10,000 in prizes to winners of the contest.

Winning entries included:

*  A system designed to record and encourage mobility of acute care patients by using wearable activity trackers
*  A recovery tool for total hip replacement patients which monitors and limits range of motion to rehab by using wearable sensors
*  A health and wellness reminder system for elderly patients, leveraging location-based sensors and smart watches
*  A mobile game interface, powered by activity trackers, designed to encourage childhood exercise and fight obesity

Certainly, the employees must appreciate the cash prizes, but they told a Forbes reporter that they’d participate even if there were no prizes, because what they really enjoy is having the experience and access to the program. That’s a pretty telling indicator that simply appreciating their concepts goes a long way.

This contest comes as part of larger efforts to make the health system innovation friendly. “The most important word is yes,” said Nancy Schlichting, the system’s CEO in a Forbes interview. “It is difficult to create a culture of innovation. If you shut down one person to shut down everyone, because bad news travels fast. When it comes to innovation, my mantra is yes.”

Other efforts to encourage employee intrapreneurship include big rewards for success in product development. The HFHS intellectual property policy offers a 50% share of future revenues coming from product ideas that end up in the market. That’s a pretty impressive call to action for employees who might have a great idea in their hip pocket.

Yet a third way the health system encourages innovation is to bypass employees’ natural fear of failure by tapping into their desire to help people. By encouraging clinicians to focus on patient care improvements, for example, the system drew staff cardiologist Dr. Dee Dee Wang to create a breakthrough method for more accurately sizing artificial heart valves and planning trans-catheter surgeries using 3-D printed models from CT scans. (She worked with Dr. William O’Neill in this work.)

So if they can generate great innovations, why aren’t more health systems and hospitals launching programs like these?

I don’t think the direct cost of creating such a program is much of an obstacle, especially for a multi-hospital system. It may require hiring a senior exec to spearhead the effort, but that’s not a huge investment for entities that size.

My guess is that one reason they don’t move ahead is management bandwidth — that health leaders simply don’t feel they have the time, energy and focus to kick off such a program at the moment. But I also suspect that C-suite execs just haven’t given much thought to the untapped potential their employees have for creating incredible solutions to critical health care problems. Sadly, I suspect it’s more the latter than the former.

When Would It Make Sense to Share Your Healthcare Data Findings?

Posted on November 21, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit.

During a recent visit with Stoltenberg Consulting, we had a really interesting discussion about the future of innovation in healthcare. I think we all saw the potential that healthcare data findings can do to improve healthcare. I believe we’re sitting on top of amazing untapped potential in healthcare data that’s going to start being mined over the next few years.

With this in mind, I asked the questions, “Will hospitals and health systems share their data findings? How will we share the data findings?

I think these are extremely important questions as we enter the new world of healthcare discovery and I don’t think the old methods of published journal articles is going to get us to where we want to go. Think about how hard it is to go through the process of getting a journal article published and then the time it takes for the journal article to diffuse through the healthcare system.

Many people fear that health systems won’t want to share their healthcare data findings thanks to competitive concerns. While this may be true in some specific cases, I’ve found the opposite to be the case in healthcare organizations. When they find something that benefits their patients or health system, they are happy to share it with everyone. I think it’s something about the nature of healthcare that makes us want to improve the lives of everyone versus bowing to competitive pressures.

While I think that many want to share their healthcare data findings, the reality is that most of the healthcare data findings aren’t shared. I think that many health systems discover something in their data, but they don’t have an easy way to share it with the broader healthcare community. The choice isn’t to deliberately not share the findings, but they don’t have the time to share it.

We need to find a way to solve this problem. I think social media will play one small part in this type of sharing, but it’s only one element. We need a platform in healthcare that simplifies the sharing of healthcare data discoveries. If it’s not dead simple for a healthcare professional to share their discoveries, it doesn’t make sense for them to do it.

Given the lack of a healthcare discovery platform, this presents a great opportunity for companies like the aforementioned Stoltenberg Consulting to package up these discoveries in easier to consume packages. I’m not sure that this is a terrible model either.

In a simplistic view, one hospital could share their health data discoveries online and another hospital could replicate it. However, the process is rarely that simple and often requires a bit more work to make the results a reality. This is where it makes sense for an outside company to bring the full package of services and software to make the discovery a simple reality for a hospital. The hospitals I know often want to buy the full stack solution. They don’t have the bandwidth to recreate the solution themselves.

Regardless of how it happens, I hope we can find better ways to diffuse healthcare innovations and discoveries across all of healthcare.

Has Epic Fostered Any Real Healthcare Innovation?

Posted on August 13, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit.

I saw the following tweet and was really struck by the question.

I think we could broaden the question even more and ask if any EHR vendor has really fostered healthcare innovation. I’m sorry to say that I can’t think of any real major innovation from any of the top hospital EHR companies. They all seem very incremental in their process and focused on replicating previous processes in the digital world.

Considering the balance sheets of these companies, that seems to have been a really smart business decision. However, I think it’s missing out on the real opportunity of what technology can do to help healthcare.

I’ve said before that I think that the current EHR crop was possibly the baseline that would be needed to really innovate healthcare. I hope that’s right. Although, I’m scared that these closed EHR systems are going to try and lock in the status quo as opposed to enabling the future healthcare innovation.

Of course, I’ll also round out this conversation with a mention of meaningful use. The past 3-5 years meaningful use has defined the development roadmap for EHR companies. Show me the last press release from an EHR company about some innovation they achieved. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any and that’s because all of the press releases have been about EHR certification and meaningful use. Meaningful use has sucked the innovation opportunity out of EHR software. We’ll see if that changes in a post-meaningful use era.

The Higher Cost Limited Value Proposition of Healthcare IT

Posted on February 1, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit.

This is a topic I’ve written about before, but it keeps coming back on my radar over and over again. Plus, it’s a fundamental problem that we most overcome in healthcare. Far too many of the innovations in healthcare are around how to get the highest quality of care regardless of the cost.

Think about all of the really expensive treatments in healthcare are barely better than a much less expensive treatment. Plus, in most industries we find ways to make something that was really expensive much cheaper. Computers are a great example of this. At first they only had super expensive computers that only a few organizations could buy. In fact, Tom Watson, then IBM chairman, famously said in 1958, “I think there is a world market for about five computers.” The reason that wasn’t a far fetched statement at the time was that computers were so expensive that there were only 5 organizations that could afford them. What changed? Computers became so inexpensive that now we see them everywhere. If you consider a cell phone a computer (which is a pretty close comparison today), then more people have computers than clean drinking water.

Now think about that when we think about technology in healthcare. Why aren’t we seeing the drastic price drop in various technologies that are used in healthcare?

In fact, healthcare is interesting because in some cases the price for healthcare IT actually goes up rather than down. Sadly, I don’t know why this is the case and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.