Innovation a challenge for health systems, study finds

The Pittsburgh-based Center for Connected Medicine has released the results of a new study it conducted on the ability of U.S. health systems to innovate.

What happened?

Less than half of health systems have a formal process for scaling innovation or a formal innovation department, according to the survey of 29 executives from health systems across the United States.

However, the Center for Connected Medicine study also found broad support for innovation in the C-suite and that health systems are actively partnering with external parties for technologies and expertise to supplement their strengths.

More than two-thirds (67 percent) of responding health systems said they have a systemwide definition for innovation incorporating the concept of unlocking new value through technology.

The vast majority of health systems surveyed (88 percent) said they can implement and scale innovation “somewhat quickly,” although no single health system said they could do so “very quickly,” and nearly a quarter (23 percent) reported scaling “somewhat slowly” or “very slowly.”

The top functional areas for innovation at health systems were access, information technology and data analytics, followed by patient and consumer engagement.

The majority of health systems with innovation departments (80 percent) have a defined budget, and health systems with a separate division are more likely to have a single executive in charge of innovation.

Why it matters?

“New entrants, evolving consumer expectations, and decreasing operating margins have led health systems to place a greater priority on accelerating and scaling innovation,” said Sanjula Jain, executive director of research and advisory for The Health Management Academy, who led the research in partnership with the Center for Connected Medicine.

The findings also suggest health systems may first consider innovation at a “big picture” level, while internal, pragmatic and logistical elements are secondary. Overall, health systems were found to use a variety of methods for enacting innovation, including internal initiatives (86 percent), partnerships (76 percent), and software and technology (67 percent).

Another challenge for health systems looking to speed up innovation plans is competing resources: A little under half of the systems surveyed (45 percent) said they do not have a defined budget for innovation.

What is the trend?

“Health systems that will be most effective in executing their innovation agendas will be those that reconcile competing priorities by developing a clear, aligned vision across the C-suite leadership team,” Jain stated.

The survey found executives overseeing innovation most commonly report to the CEO of the health system (44 percent), while those that do not are divided between reporting to other C-suite and non C-suite (28 percent).

Interviews with survey participants indicated boards are supportive and want to see efficient transformation. Overall, the findings indicated a correlation between a limited number of parties involved in innovation decision-making and health systems that said they could implement innovation quickly.

Nathan Eddy is a healthcare and technology freelancer based in Berlin.

Email the writer: [email protected]

Twitter: @dropdeaded209

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