Innovation starts with process, not technology

In our work with health enterprises around the country, we’ve seen teams large and small approach digital transformation from a variety of angles. What we’ve learned is that while strategic objectives differ across organizations, all have one thing in common: They usually take a technology-first approach. And when conflating technology with innovation, they inadvertently stall the innovation they’re trying to achieve.

Our experience is that building a framework with processes that support innovation before investing in technology is the first step in achieving long-term success. Here are five ways to get started.

1. Align on institutional priorities
We’ve seen organizations face challenges when they lack a systematic way to understand organization-wide priorities. Therefore, they have trouble implementing the right technologies to support those priorities. When every part of the organization wants to test something unique to their discipline, bottlenecks emerge for the C-Suite. There simply aren’t enough hours in a day to see the myriad of vendors out there. Without organization-wide focus, companies end up with a jumble of point solutions that are costly to implement and maintain, lack interoperability and solve for discrete problems without contributing to the success of larger organizational priorities. This has given rise to the acute need for one platform that supports a multitude of technologies quickly, easily and cost-effectively.

2. Tie success criteria and timing to institutional priorities
Our experience shows that a good innovation process is tied to institutional priorities and oriented around concrete business objectives such as delivering change in practice, improving patient experience and reducing physician burden. Not every objective works for every program, but it must be clear where the focus is. Innovative organizations don’t conflate business results with value objectives. If you need a year to prove your value, you’re in trouble. The value objective is to demonstrate a specific business result in three months, with a roadmap of how to achieve larger success over time.

3. Engage the end-user from the start
In a successful proof-of-concept, you must understand the objectives of end-users and involve them from the beginning to make sure the product and roll-out meet their needs. At Apervita, we ran an expedited 8-week process with a leading national healthcare enterprise, forming a Technology Advisory Panel with their leading customers to get buy-in from end-users, validate our assumptions and prove the value of the product before rolling it out to clinicians. Another reason to involve the user from the start is to identify problems early on and fix them quickly. Failure is part of the objective of a proof-of-concept. An innovation process creates a structure that lets you fail fast and hopefully move on to a good outcome.

4. Eliminate the classic purchasing process
We’ve seen personal career and business risks increase exponentially when one person in the organization is positioned to buy a point solution for a local problem without organizational buy-in. Point solutions that lack a systemic perspective are often ineffective and lead to poor outcomes. By using a repeatable innovation process rather than a classic purchasing process, organizations remove these risks. Innovative organizations involve stakeholders from across the organization and consider the broader organizational impact of technology. They then examine timing and market readiness and make a decision.

5. Use innovation to deliver on your mission, whatever that mission may be
Cost reduction permeates every facet of healthcare technology and innovation, but our experience shows it’s not necessarily the primary motivation for all organizations. For example, if you reduce costs but increase physician burden and lower patient satisfaction, you aren’t successful. Coupling innovation and cost is key. By developing innovation programs around mission-driven, organization-wide priorities, organizations can use technology to move faster, reduce burden, increase satisfaction and improve outcomes while also decreasing costs.