Healthcare should adopt culture of experimentation to grow new ideas

Healthcare should take a page from other industries--notably tech--to create a culture of experimentation that allows for collecting data quickly, changing course if necessary and innovating on a small budget, according to an article at The New England Journal of Medicine.

The article, written by David Asch, M.D., a professor at the Perelman School of Medicine and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and executive director of the Center for Health Care Innovation, and Roy Rosin, chief innovation officer at Penn Medicine, highlights methods for rapid validation of new ideas.

Among them:

  • The "vapor test:" E-commerce sites list a product as out of stock, when it actually was never in stock, but it's a test of whether there is demand for the product. This method involves deception, which requires it to be used judiciously in healthcare, they say. However, it involves floating an idea with patients to answer the question: "If you build it, will they come?"
  • The fake front end: The creator of the Palm Pilot carried around a block of wood to get a feel for how often he actually would use such a mobile device. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia recently used a fake front end to gather data on which children with sickle cell disease could safely be sent home from the emergency department. All the children were admitted, but through the data it gathered, it found that 27 percent could have safely gone home.
  • The fake back end: It involves building a model, temporary infrastructure without the cost of actually building it, then learning you got it wrong.

Hospital CIOs spend little of their time innovating, according to a College of Healthcare Information Management Executives poll. Gretchen Tegethoff, a member of CHIME's board of trustees, said the healthcare industry is not set up for failure, making it harder for innovation to be more prominent.

"Often organizations focus on the short term--the tyranny of the urgent. Carving out time for innovation with a long-term view is necessary to create true breakthroughs," John Halamka, chief information officer at Boston-based Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, wrote on his blog.

To learn more:
- read the article