Ed Marx, SVP/CIO of Texas Health Resources, provided an uplifting start to the Texas HIMSS Regional conference in Dallas. The topic of the morning was “Creating and Sustaining Innovation.” With healthcare IT trying to provide the type of interoperability necessary to improve quality and keep up with patient demands, the room was filled with eager attendees and was standing room only.

“Innovation is not me. It is pervasive. It involves everyone.” 

Marx started off with an example to prove that innovation does not have to be costly or complex. The product is the Urinal Fly Target. Apparently, this simple and cheap sticker has drastically cut men’s bathroom clean cycles at the Amsterdam International Airport. It was incredibly innovative, but also very simple and cost effective for someone to use a sticker to increase cleanliness while reducing overhead.

Marx noted that only 20% of CIOs are considered innovative. He stated that there is a fear of failure, and that in general CIOs are just ‘old school.’ In order to break this trend, one must know thyself and thy organization and be prepared to lead the organization. And to lead the organization, you must be innovative.

Several ways were cited to lead innovation:

  1. Ask why? Always great advice. Even if it didn’t work out for Enron so well.
  2. Encourage innovation. Communicate that it is not optional. Then fund it.
  3. Model behavior yourself.
  4. Occupy IT.
  5. Hire people that don’t look or think like you. Including young people.
  6. Leverage vendors.
  7. Don’t outsource or hire an “innovation expert.” Innovation is not a title.
  8. Encourage collaboration by providing space for it.

Innovation also involves reaching outside the organization. Benchmarking can be utilized. And not only reach outside the organization, but reach outside the industry. Stop comparing notes with other similar healthcare companies, but instead have collaboration sessions with companies in a completely different market space.

Getting the IT team out of the cubicles is also key. Have them spend time with clinicians and understand the issues with their workflows.  Book studies and team building activities are also important, because innovation rarely happens in a conference room.

Once your company is moving in an innovative direction, Marx suggests the following for sustaining it:

  1. Live by example
  2. Talk about it
  3. Invest in it
  4. Show and tell
  5. Hire for it
  6. Manage the innovation killers – devil’s advocates and budget hawks

There is no doubt innovation is key to surviving in healthcare today, for both providers and vendors. Success depends on relationships, encouragement, a culture of change, and a willingness to embrace failure. Innovation is what ultimately drives the triple aim of healthcare by improving the patient experience, improving the health of populations, and reducing the cost.

Here at Corepoint Health we're lucky to have the opportunity to learn from so many innovative CIOs.

Read additional reviews from the Texas HIMSS conference.

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