Hospitals create innovation centers to think big thoughts

Hospital innovation centers are gaining ground as leaders look to institutionalize the research and outside-the-box thinking that leads to groundbreaking new ideas, Becker's Hospital Review reported.

The 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act prompted several hospitals to launch innovation centers, and more have been created since then, according to a Commonwealth Fund survey. The typical center has six employees, has an annual budget of $1.95 million and tests 12 or 13 ideas at a time, the survey found.

Innovation centers focus on different approaches rather than better ones, adopt a patient view rather than an institutional view and aim to dramatically improve health outcomes, the survey found. All of the centers questioned reported working closely with frontline healthcare providers and with health IT software providers.

Innovation centers require money, but not necessarily much space, according to the article. For example, the center at Johns Hopkins Sibley Memorial Hospital in the District of Columbia area is in a 3,000-square-foot space where the organization used to house its paper medical records, Becker's reported. Its research niche is people-facing problems.

New York-Presbyterian Hospital, however, focuses on health IT, specifically patient engagement and provider collaboration, according to the article. The winner of a recent competition at the center was a mobile application that drives communication and collaboration among care teams and helps facilitate searches and exchanges of patient clinical information.

But advocates for innovation centers cautioned that hospital leaders need to think beyond traditional return on investment when assessing their value. Although innovation can save money in the long term by leading to operational efficiencies, they told Becker's that leaders should measure the return by improvements in patient satisfaction and as a mechanism to adapt to a dramatically changing healthcare environment.

Heritage Medical System in Northridge, California, for example, has adopted a holistic approach to patient care driven by what's "right for the patient," according to its chief innovation officer, FierceHealthcare recently reported. The system's patient-centered care focuses on safety, timeliness of care and providing the attention and amenities necessary to improve patient satisfaction.

Even without dedicated innovation centers, hospitals can foster innovation by empowering employees to take calculated risks and hire diverse teams that have demonstrated creativity, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

For more:
- read the Becker's article
- here's a link to the survey findings (PowerPoint)