When Hospitals Give Birth to Innovation | Healthcare of Tomorrow

Forget simply adopting the latest best practices or trying to keep up with what competitor health care providers do. Some hospitals are innovating from the inside out to improve patient care and engagement.

Those innovations range from incorporating more patient data fluidly into their electronic medical record to provide doctors with a more complete picture to helping clinicians sort through voluminous data to better deliver care to patients. A common thread: representatives from academic medical centers at a Hospital of Tomorrow session Monday afternoon titled “Hospitals as Innovation Incubators” spoke about efforts to invest in people inside their organizations to nimbly meet patients’ individual needs.

“We work with internal innovators,” said Dr. Michael Blum, chief medical information officer and director for the Center for Digital Health Innovation at UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco. That includes helping doctors who are “drowning in data” sift through patient information to provide the best possible care.

Blum and others on the panel say it’s not just about trying something new, but validating in-house innovations through careful clinical use, as well as taking a hard look at outside innovations, such as devices to monitor everything from high blood pressure to heart problems, to make sure they work before implementing them more widely at hospitals.

Enable. Build, Stimulate. Collaborate. Working together within the walls of a medical center, as well as working with those outside the hospital, is central to the approach moved by some leading health providers seeking an edge in innovation, such as Boston Children’s Hospital. “We actually have a developer shop in-house … that’s building tools directly on top of the EMR,” said the hospital’s chief innovation officer John Brownstein, to better leverage patient data to improve care. 

In addition to innovating in-house, he said the hospital partners with other organizations, from small startups to larger entities. One goal: to use digital data to improve treatment throughout the care continuum. That extends from preventive care to looking after sick patients admitted to the hospital.

Similarly, the focus on innovating from within was comprehensive. “We’re developing an entire group that can take an idea all the way from conception to commercialization,” Brownstein said. Representatives from other health providers spoke similarly about taking an idea and running with it, through development.

Much of the focus entailed the increasing digitization of patient information and a push to get the industry to connect the dots with that patient data to ultimately better inform clinicians and enhance care using electronic medical records. “We’re surrounded by a lot of technology,” said Peter M. Fleischut, chief innovation officer at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, based in New York City.

Katherine Steinberg, director of the Institute for Innovation in Health at UCLA Health in Los Angeles, echoed other panelists in talking about an emphasis on fostering “an innovation culture within our health system.”

Like others on the panel moderated by Craig Beam, managing director of CBRE Healthcare Services Group, Steinberg reiterated that efforts to improve care for patients weren’t bounded by institutional walls. “We’re agnostic as to where those innovations come from.”

Even if, as she was quick to add: “many come from within our own health system.”