The Healing Edge: At the Intersection of Innovative Thinking and HIT

Recently, I published a book, titled Innovation with Information Technology in Healthcare, which contains the stories of almost 20 organizations that have been innovative in their approach to using health IT. I wanted to share some of the lessons from these stories to help guide your journey of using clinical innovation and technology to deliver better, faster and more cost-effective care at your organization.

Lesson  #1: Use What You Have! The book’s first section contains stories about innovators who have used their existing EMR systems to do something that it wasn’t necessarily designed to do. Because they used their EMR system’s established functionality, they didn’t need much of a budget or resources to accomplish their goals. Examples range from using the EMR’s messaging system to support a robust care coordination team, to using decision support tools to empower staff to automatically place appropriate preventive care and disease-based orders, to using reporting functionality to detect potentially adverse events via daily reports on abnormal labs and medication orders.

Lesson #2: Successful Innovations Address More Than Technology. The second section of the book presents different ways to use telehealth technologies. But, just as important as the technical innovation, each chapter addresses the cultural, process, staffing and business model challenges and answers to make these solutions viable. Highlights include how the first patient portal dealt with physician resistance, how a large organization created a fair compensation system for their specialists who answered virtual consults, how the VA system changed their clinical processes for real-time televisits across hundreds of miles, how a group of non-connected hospitals created both a technical and business model to support use of tele-intepreters shared among them and how a rural hospital addressed process and legal issues to use e-pharmacists across state lines.

Lesson #3: Look Around. The book’s final section focuses on innovators who found advanced technologies being used in other industries and applied them to healthcare. Examples include mobile devices, RFID, data visualization, business intelligence and analytics, online panels, and, of course, gaming.

Lesson #4: Dream Big. One of the unique things about every chapter is that the innovators explain the origin of their innovation. My favorite “origin story” involves the tale of a woman who was admitted for IV antibiotics. When the IV team came into her room, they expertly gloved up and got her IV in place. Unfortunately, she had a bad reaction because she was allergic to latex. This allergy was well-documented in her EMR, but the IV team did not have access to that when they did their job. So, in an ensuing brainstorming session, one of the wild ideas was “What if the walls were alive” and could know who was in the room and display what that person needed to know. The vision was realized with the creation of a mounted monitor in each room which would read a provider’s RFID badge as they entered, connect to the EMR and then display data for review or accept input on its touch screen.
I hope these lessons and stories help you in your quest for the healing edge.