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Consumer-centered Approach to Innovation by Thomas Jefferson University’s DICE Group

Posted on August 30, 2017 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

Sparking and sustaining Innovation is a much-sought-after goal for healthcare systems today. Some organizations have set up specialized innovation centers whose goal is to commercialize technologies developed internally by staff. Others are fostering innovation by becoming incubators and early-stage investors.

Thomas Jefferson University (TJU) in Philadelphia PA is taking multiple approaches to innovation. They created the Jefferson Accelerator Zone (JAZ) where they hold Health Hackathons, host in-person keynotes and have meeting space for local innovators. TJU also created an internal innovation team – the Digital Innovation and Consumer Experience (DICE) Group – a hidden gem.

I had the chance recently to sit down with Neil Gomes @neilgomes – Chief Digital Officer and Senior VP for Technology Innovation and Consumer Experience at TJU and Jefferson Health, who leads the DICE team – to talk about their unique approach to healthcare innovation.

How is DICE different than other healthcare innovation centers that we read about in articles?

We are not an innovation center as people have come to know them. The DICE Group isn’t focused only on commercializing technologies that have been developed by physicians or staff. DICE is an internal group that’s focused on designing and developing solutions to problems faced by the institution, from both a healthcare and educational perspective. Often our solutions incorporate a new technology innovation – but just as often we end up implementing an innovative process without replacing the existing technology. DICE is more like a team of internal catalysts. We enable the design and development of consumer-focused, value-driven, digital-ready solutions. Our goal is to build an efficient, agile, and future-focused organization that delivers value and quality to patients, students, employees, donors, and the community.

How do you find problems to work on?

Our team spends a lot of time out in the field with front-line staff. Not only do we listen to their ideas but we also observe how things are working or not working as the case may be. Through this first-hand interaction with our stakeholders and consumers (aka end-users), we develop focused projects and strategic initiatives.

What are some of the projects you have worked on?

We work on varied projects, some extremely complex such as enabling the implementation of a new Electronic Health Record (EHR) along with other project teams and others that could be as simple as moving equipment to a more efficient location.

On one such simpler (but impactful) project, we enhanced patient experience while at the same time reduced stress on staff – all by moving a label printer from one side of the room to the other. This project started off as a request to reduce delays in the Emergency Room (ER). Through direct observation, we discovered several improvement opportunities. One of the delays we addressed was in the processing of urine samples from patients. Instead of jumping in with a new technology, we took the time to really dig into the problem and just by moving a label printer, we solved it.

On another project, we helped improve our US News & World Report (USNWR) survey scores by assisting our own and referring physicians with setting up their Doximity account. The USNWR annual ranking of Best Hospitals is based on a survey that is distributed online exclusively via Doximity. What we found, however, is that many of the physicians that refer their patients to Jefferson Health and our own physicians did not have their Doximity accounts set up. If a physician is making a referral then they must believe we are a good facility…but without an active Doximity account they wouldn’t be able to participate in the survey. So we created a process along with some technology to help them set up their account when they made a referral. We ended up capturing a lot of that positive sentiment on the USNWR survey and that helped us get to our current ranking of the 16th best hospital in the nation.

We have also done a lot of work with our EHRs (EPIC and several others) as well as designed and developed our own digital apps such as: myJeffHealth, myBaby@Jeff, JeffDocs and Strength Through Insight. While several of our apps are directed at patients and students, we also develop apps and applications for our employees to enable efficiency, data collection, reduce process latency, enhance business processes, and build future-focused competitive advantage. While developing these solutions, we work in partnership with internal and external stakeholders and even with industry partners such as Google, Apple, Adobe, IBM, ServiceNow, EPIC, Harman Kardon, AllScripts, etc. who co-innovate with us.

What is the DICE secret sauce?

If I had to pick one thing that makes us unique it’d be our approach to innovation. We don’t go into situations with a “we must build something” mindset. We remain open to the possibility that a workflow change or additional training may be the best solution to the problem. Our team really takes an ethnographic look at the situation. Nothing is assumed. We give ourselves the time to really dig deep into whether the proposed solution will really achieve the desired outcome and whether it is even aligned with the problem.

We’ve worked hard at building close working relationships with operational leaders and our consumers. We have taken the time to really understand their world and we don’t just come in and try to impose our ideas on them. We build things together with our employees, partners, and consumers. That’s our secret sauce.

Being consumer-centric isn’t ground-breaking. The retail, hospitality, travel, and banking industries have been doing this for years. We have just started to bring consumer-centric thinking into healthcare. For the DICE Group, focusing on the consumer is the most organic and natural way we approach problems and devise solutions.

Many organizations have tried to create internal innovation teams, why has DICE been so successful?

Being close to our end-users has been a cornerstone of our success, but there are few other key things that we do at DICE that we think contribute to our success. One of the core principles we live and breathe every day is human-centered design. This is something that is ignored or overlooked by many in healthcare today – and some HealthIT vendors are especially bad at this. When you subscribe to a human-centered design approach, you realize that building and implementing the technology is only part of the solution. You also have to help end-users incorporate that technology into their daily routines. You have to help them through the disruption and help them bridge the knowledge gap. You can’t just drop in the technology and move onto the next project. Without proper follow-up people will revert back to past patterns – which means the organization will not see any improvement.

That’s another key to our success. We are no longer on the see-problem-solve-problem hamster wheel. In the first few years we “followed the problems” and we racked up early wins. These quick wins helped us build trust, credibility, and most importantly, internal momentum. However, you can’t succeed in healthcare by just solving one problem after another. Healthcare will not be fixed if everyone is just focused on organic point solutions. We need to look above the day-to-day and build solutions that push us in a particular direction. Basically we need to focus on larger, bold, and strategic goals and then creatively innovate towards them.

For example, rather than just looking at streamlining the ER at our Jefferson-Abington hospital, we set ourselves a goal that we would optimally utilize our ER to the extent that we could triage a patient to a room and team in the ER even while they were on the ambulance to the ER. It seemed impossible when we started, but as we worked with our stakeholders and end-users we eventually achieved this goal through a combination of technology and process improvements.

What’s next for DICE?

Now that we are deeply integrated in the organization, we see ourselves getting even more closely involved with the organization’s strategy. With the support of our President and CEO, Dr. Steve Klasko, our staff, board, and co-innovating industry partners, we continue to move from just solving the problems of today to helping TJU solve the problems of tomorrow, develop competitive advantage and value, and deliver closed-loop consumer experiences digitally and in the physical world that engage, enchant, and improve lives.

For more insight into DICE and to see what projects they are working on, follow them on Twitter @DICEGRP


Searching for Disruptive Healthcare Innovation in 2017

Posted on January 17, 2017 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

Disruptive Innovation has been the brass ring for technology companies ever since Clayton Christensen popularized the term in his seminal book The Innovator’s Dilemma in 1997. According to Christensen, disruptive innovation is:

“A process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors.”

Disruption is more likely to occur, therefore, when you have a well established market with slow-moving large incumbents who are focused on incremental improvements rather than truly innovative offerings. Using this definition, healthcare has been ripe for innovation for a number of years. But where is the AirBNB/Uber/Google of healthcare?

On a recent #hcldr tweetchat we asked what disruptive healthcare technologies might emerge in 2017. By far the most popular response was Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning.

Personally, I’m really excited about the potential of AI applied to diagnostics and decision support. There is just no way a single person can stay up to speed on all the latest clinical research while simultaneously remembering every symptom/diagnosis from the past. I believe that one day we will all be using AI assistance to guide our care – as common as we use a GPS today to help navigate unknown roads.

Some #hcldr participants, however, were skeptical of AI.

While I don’t think @IBMWatson is on the same trajectory as Theranos, there is merit to being wary of “over-hype” when it comes to new technologies. When a shining star like Theranos falls, it can set an entire industry back and stifle innovation in an area that may warrant investment. Can you imagine seeking funding for a technology that uses small amounts of blood to detect diseases right now? Too much hype can prematurely kill innovation.

Other potentially disruptive technologies that were raised during the chat included: #telehealth, #wearables, patient generated health data (#PDHD), combining #HealthIT with consumer services and #patientengagement.

The funniest and perhaps most thoughtful tweet came from @YinkaVidal, who warned us that innovations have a window of usefulness. What was once ground-breaking can be rendered junk by the next generation.

What do you believe will be the disruptive healthcare technology to emerge in 2017?

Has Epic Fostered Any Real Healthcare Innovation?

Posted on August 13, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 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 and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

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.

R&D Budget or Your Company Is R&D

Posted on August 4, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 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 and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Today I realized a good way to describe the difference between a large company and a startup company. I was reading an interview with a very large healthcare IT company and whenever he was asked about the innovations they’re working on in healthcare IT he referred to their R&D budget or their R&D efforts. As more of a startup person myself, I found the mentality interesting to compare against a startup company. At a startup company, your entire company is focused on innovating.

I find the approach so uniquely different and explains why many hospital organizations don’t want to work with startup companies. These hospital organizations are afraid that the startup company won’t deliver the results they expect. I get it. It’s much easier to “choose IBM” versus go with a newer startup company when working on a project. I think we regularly underestimate the value of a great brand.

I’ve seen the same. While my blog network has deep reach into the healthcare IT community, I’ve seen companies fawn all over Forbes bloggers (not to be confused with Forbes journalists) mostly because they saw the Forbes brand. The power of a great brand is tremendous. In fact, the power of a known brand (even if it’s not a great brand) is extremely powerful.

What I find most ironic though is that most hospitals love being part of the “innovation” programs these large companies put together. You’ve all seen the press releases that are put out between large company A and hospital B. Why are hospitals so interested in being part of large health IT companies R&D efforts and yet they’re scared of health IT startups?

I’m sure some would make the case that the large health IT companies will be around for a while and the health IT startup companies might not be. This is true, but what’s to keep a large health IT company from cutting their R&D budget and killing your innovation program? Nothing. Isn’t that the same thing as a health IT startup company closing up shop? In fact, I’d argue that the later might be better for you. If the health IT startup company was on to something and just ran out of funding, you could buy the whole startup company and continue your efforts. Try doing that with a shutdown innovation program at a large company.

I think healthcare would really benefit from being more open to startup innovations. I realize that the politics of a hospital system make it tough. However, with some smart planning and thought, we could find ways to make working with health IT startups easier. Our hospitals and healthcare in general would really benefit from doing so.

Is Epic Stifling Health IT Innovation?

Posted on April 30, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or

In many ways and definitely based on the buzz, Epic is at the top of the hospital EMR market. According to one estimate, about 40 percent of the U.S. population has its medical information stored in an Epic EMR, a stunning number given the level of competition in the hospital EMR space.

The question is, what impact is that having on the EMR marketplace?  According to one piece posted this week by Medical Economics,  Epic may be stifling health IT innovation due to its nearly-unassailable market lead.

As readers probably know, Epic has established an empire built around antiquated technology (MUMPS), which essentially forces any company that hopes to interoperate to bear its MUMPS core in mind. We’re talking the blunted edge here.

Perhaps more importantly, now that Epic has such a dominant market share, if it chooses to keep a closed system in place, customers will only get what innovations are driven internally by Epic.  If hospitals want innovations emerging outside the Epic bubble, they’ll have to consider the staggering costs — in some cases in the hundreds of millions of dollars — of switching outright to another vendor. If that doesn’t stifle innovation I don’t know what does.

This situation hasn’t been lost on healthcare industry leaders, some of whom have begun to balk at Epic’s rise, Medical Economics reports.

As the piece notes, Epic has attracted outspoken critics that question whether Epic’s’ market dominance is bad for the health IT world as a whole. One of those critics is Paul Levy, former CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, who has taken shots at the EMR giant from his “Not Running A Hospital” blog.

Levy, who Medical Economics cites as one of Epic’s toughest opponents, has been known to compare customers’ relationship with Epic to Stockholm Syndrome, a condition occurring when hostages begin to sympathize and identify with their captors.

All that being said, at the  moment, there’s little critics can do to change Epic’s business practices or development plans. Perhaps the Federal Trade Commission will step in at some point if it appears to staff there that Epic’s market control is anti-competitive.   In the mean time, though, Epic seems to have a lock on the hospital marketplace — and a disproportionate role in shaping the future of EMRs generally.