Innovation a back-burner priority for hospital IT departments

While innovation in the healthcare industry continues to grow, hospital CIOs spend little of their time innovating, according to a College of Healthcare Information Management Executives poll conducted ahead of the organization's annual fall forum, held last week in San Antonio, Texas.

For the poll, presented during a track session at the meeting, 207 hospital CIOs were asked an array of questions about their facilities' support of innovation. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (63 percent) said they devote between 0 and 10 percent of their time to innovation; conversely, 9 percent said they spend more than 20 percent of their time on innovation.

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. Tegethoff previously has served as CIO at The George Washington University Hospital in the District of Columbia and, until May of this year, as CIO at Athens (Georgia) Regional Health System.

"It all comes down to organizational tolerance for risk," she said. "Just because we're not failing doesn't make us smart; it makes us risk averse. Those who fail on innovation actually learn a lot. In order to be successful with innovation, we have to learn that failure might be part of that, and most likely is."

Eighty-nine percent of respondents said their organizations had no position directly responsible for innovation. What's more, nearly 70 percent of respondents said executive leadership at their organizations were either only "somewhat" accepting (42 percent) or "cautiously/not at all" accepting (26 percent) of innovation.

Sixty-two percent said their organizations either had no formal plans to focus on innovation, or they weren't sure.

"Healthcare has been in the slow lane for years and it's time for us to catch up," Tegethoff said. "There was a tweet that caught our attention during this process; it was a doctor saying 'I work in healthcare during the day, and then I go home to the 21st century.'"

She added that the industry could take an innovation lesson from Apple.

"Just like Apple makes a product that makes you want it, and then you can't imagine your life without it, that's where healthcare has to go," she said. "The CIO of the future needs to think this way."