Generative AI. Virtual care. The rise of retail clinics. Disruptive innovation is cutting through the healthcare industry at warp speed, forcing health system leaders to rethink how we engage with patients.
On the bright side, disruption challenges us to build solutions that improve health outcomes, patient experience, care delivery, and affordability. But it also begs the question: How do we drive care innovation in an era of rampant burnout and workforce shortages? To answer this question, let’s unpack some common myths about innovation and care transformation.
Myth #1: Innovation depends on technology.
Reality check: Innovation doesn’t have to be technical at all. It’s about reinventing as much as it is about inventing.
Start by empowering your teams to address process or service challenges they deal with every day. Clinicians are hungry to remove barriers to quality care. They need to be empowered to think outside the box and act.
Consider how a simple process redesign can greatly impact efficiency, cost, and patient and clinician experience. For example, reducing the average ED boarding time by just one hour can add up to millions in additional revenue each year.
Also, imagine how education might transform an existing service. Vituity’s award-winning Emergency Psychiatric Intervention (EPI) initiative is a great example. Behavioral health patients often wait many hours in the emergency room because clinicians aren’t sure how to assess and treat them. Vituity physicians created EPI to close this gap through education and care standardization.
Myth #2: We don’t have the resources.
Truth bomb: Is innovation costly? Sometimes. But given the level of disruption moving through our industry, health systems can’t afford not to invest in innovation.
The good news is that meaningful innovation doesn’t have to start with big, expensive projects. Instead, offer whatever support you can to small, well-defined initiatives. As each small win demonstrates a return on investment, you can justify a bigger innovation spend.
Care transformation can also start from within your own teams. One of our practice sites is currently trialing an abdominal palpation device invented by one of our front-line physicians. This technology could inform the need for abdominal imaging without an in-person examination.
It’s important not to underestimate the innovation potential coming from the front lines. Carve out protected hours for individuals to innovate, and you’ll be surprised what they can accomplish with little else.
Myth #3: We don’t know where to start.
Straight talk: Start thinking of innovation as “everything can be done better,” and you’ll easily spot opportunities for business, operational, and clinical improvement across your organization.
One key to successful innovation is to start with a well-defined problem. For example, let’s say you want to improve inpatient length of stay. You might work with your clinical teams to map your current processes and set realistic goals for change.
Another winning strategy is starting small with an agile, iterative approach. Test and validate solutions in real-world settings, gather feedback, and make necessary adjustments along the way. Many of Vituity’s signature solutions (including EPI and virtual navigation) were developed in a single health system before they were adopted across the organization.
Finally, when choosing projects to invest in, consider their long-term scalability. Solutions that can be used by multiple departments, hospitals, or systems will reach more patients and have a more meaningful impact. A standout example is Vituity’s Rapid Medical Evaluation (RME)® solution, which was created by a single emergency physician in the early 2000s. RME has since been adopted by almost all Vituity EDs—and is used in some form by almost every ED in the country.
Bringing Change to Life
In our highly disruptive healthcare environment, innovation is a survival imperative. However, it’s hard to get executive leadership buy-in for innovative projects when it’s believed they’ll be highly technical, expensive, or time-consuming.
As healthcare leaders, it’s our job to foster an innovative culture—and often, this requires debunking myths about innovation. By helping front-line clinicians understand what innovation looks like, in forms both big and small, you’ll empower them to develop creative solutions and transform care for the benefit of your patients.
About the Author
Theo Koury, MD, is President of Vituity. Across his 25-year leadership career, Dr. Koury has focused on empowering front-line clinicians to improve care by prioritizing patient outcomes and maximizing quality and efficiency. In addition to his executive duties, he is a practicing emergency physician in the San Francisco Bay Area.
As President of Vituity since 2017, Dr. Koury oversees the company’s financial and infrastructure strategies essential to fulfill the enterprise’s mission of empowering healthcare providers to deliver exceptional care across more than 500 service locations nationwide.