Guest Column | June 18, 2019

To Achieve True Innovation In Healthcare, We Must Work Together As An Industry

By Kali Durgampudi, Greenway Health

Standardized Healthcare Terminology

Healthcare has come a long way since the days of doctors making house calls with their black bags and using hand-written logbooks to manage their practice. Since that time, new technologies have been introduced with the goal of changing every aspect of healthcare — from making practices more efficient to improving diagnostics and supporting development of personalized medicine.

One such technology that was poised to revolutionize the industry was the electronic health record (EHR). EHRs were originally designed to reduce costs, make healthcare practices more efficient, and enable providers to offer more coordinated care. First introduced in the 1960s, EHRs now make up a $13 billion industry. But ask healthcare providers about the EHRs they've implemented, and the results are far from what was expected.

In fact, many physicians feel that working with EHRs is redundant, time consuming, and takes away from their ability to truly focus on patient care. In addition, 32 percent of physicians report that EHRs contribute directly to feelings of burnout.

But it’s not just EHRs that are causing frustration. As the healthcare industry embraces cloud-based technology and software providers rush to develop solutions for practice pain points that don’t necessarily integrate well with each other, doctors report feeling more like “data-entry specialists” than actual physicians.

That’s why the healthcare IT sector must come together to overcome the current level of dissatisfaction from our buyers and end users. Healthcare providers desperately need to stay ahead of today’s complex, ever-evolving regulatory environment while also enhancing care and delivering better patient experiences. Our technologies are the answer, but there are three core actions that must be followed now and into the future to bring balance to the physician/technology symbiosis.

#1 Identify The Need — What’s Driving The Demand For Innovation?

There are a multitude of factors driving the demand for better innovation in healthcare. For some, it’s a focus on cybersecurity and patient privacy. For others, it may be addressing healthcare consumerism and engaging patients, while also lowering costs or increasing efficiency. Whatever the reason, technology can — and should — play a critical role in meeting these goals.

Because of this demand, many individuals and companies are rushing products and solutions out the door in order to achieve first-mover advantage. In this case, faster isn’t always better.

To get it right and truly innovate, we must focus on the functionality and operation of new technology. Before introducing any new technology to the market, make sure your first intention is to get it right. Too many times we focus more on launch dates and growing sales, rather than ensuring the quality and usability of the product and taking care to get it right the first time.

Engineering teams should employ “user-centered design,” which emerged in the mid-1980s. This approach encourages us to sit with a nurse and observe his or her workflow when triaging patients. It involves interviewing consumers about how they obtain healthcare information in their daily lives. And following a surgeon to watch him or her develop post-op papers, and so forth.

From there, we can determine what technology capabilities would make their workflows simpler. Can we improve an existing product on the market to fulfill their need, or does this require a completely new platform? Would artificial intelligence or voice recognition provide ease of use? If so, in what ways?

#2 Foster A Culture Of Innovation — How Can The Whole Team Play A Role?

Innovation cannot truly happen unless individuals feel encouraged and supported to take risks, explore new ideas and spend the time necessary to cultivate those ideas. The most successful organizations embolden all teammates to be continuously curious and at the same time challenge employees to find new ways of doing things to solve problems or address unmet needs.

Don’t spend time chasing that newest shiny object. In other words, innovation must be considered from a long-term versus short-term perspective. It’s important to encourage deep-rooted thinking about what healthcare will become in the next five to 10 years, and to learn to anticipate what the industry will require at that time. By looking through this lens, organizations have the opportunity to truly uncover what the anticipated needs are, enabling them to create and innovate solutions that will provide value for providers and patients.

Greenway Health, for example, is providing inputs to our clients to design the next generation patient room to ensure both software and physical infrastructure work in harmony together for next generation solutions.

#3 Collaborate — Who Must Come Together To Inspire Innovation In Healthcare?  

While an individual or a small group may come up with an innovative concept, it’s important to get a variety of perspectives to validate the idea or provide input on ways to improve its usability or impact on the healthcare sector. Internally, encourage collaboration among your internal team.

Outside of your four walls, partner with diverse industry organizations. For example, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) welcomes Innovation Partners to its network. Members can connect with fellow CIOs, senior healthcare IT executives and others in the pursuit of technologies designed to transform healthcare.

Considering we cannot achieve true innovation in healthcare by working in silos, I challenge the entire industry to come together. Start by identifying the “need” impacting your buyers and end users, then challenge the full team to think creatively and with an innovation mindset. Get involved. Network with like-minded peers and share ideas freely. Let’s get started now. Because millions of lives depend on it.

About The Author
As chief technology and innovation officer at Greenway Health, a leading health information technology and services provider, Kali Durgampudi has extensive knowledge of highly complex, enterprise-class products and solutions. He has a reputation for delivering innovation and organizational excellence and was awarded with The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) Foundation’s 2018 Industry Leader Award for his dedication and contribution to the healthcare information technology industry. He currently serves as an international advisory board member of CHIME.