Friday, Oct 9, 2020

Navigating 2020 by Embracing Innovation

Roberta L. SchwartzEVP and Chief Innovation Officer, Houston Methodist Hospital


I’m looking forward to the annual HLTH conference next week to share more on the growing trend of voice technology in the health care space and what’s next for Houston Methodist.

Voice technology is one area of innovation that has had rapid adoption in our households and more and more in the clinical setting. It has given us accessibility and convenience to information, integrating into our daily lives as an assistant, planner and a resource to discover the unknown. 

Voice is only one of many areas that has gone through rapid adoption during 2020. It has become evident to me during this pandemic that innovation in healthcare is not only the key to survival, but also our hope of improving care; reducing costs; improving the work/life balance of physicians and simplifying the way that consumers access and interact with the health care system. Significant moves have been made in health care innovation in recent years. COVID-19 has only sped along and aided in the adoption and acceptance of these innovations.

Consumers have matured in the years since the Internet became a center for commerce in the 10+ years since the iPhone was released. Consumers shop online for their shirts and shoes, order groceries online and sign up for activities. And, in the year of COVID-19, we have witnessed the explosion of all things virtual: school, meetings, happy hours and virtual family gatherings. Online shopping and Facetime have rapidly changed the way that we conduct commerce and connect with family, yet health care interactions have been woefully slow to change from the basic clipboard on your way in the door to the paper bill you get in the mail. Health care providers must do better or they, like the dinosaurs, will not survive.

At Houston Methodist, we have been active adopters of innovations in health care. We focus on products in the beta stage or beyond and have learned to rapidly scale those innovations. Our philosophy is to work in a “quad” model for innovation where the upper-left quadrant is “graduates” of the innovation center and includes those areas that are deemed successful in their return-on-investment for achieving quality or financial returns and the lower-right-quadrant are those products that “rest-in-pace” and did not have their intended results. The other two quadrants are rounded out with the pilot and the pipeline. The Center for Innovation leadership group, or what we call “DIOP,” which stands for Digital Innovation Obsessed People, is responsible for working with operating units to identify the pipeline, asking tough questions about our investments and tracking the results to discontinue or graduate a project.

The results of focusing on innovation BEFORE it was essential for a pandemic such as COVID-19 enabled our system to be ready with telemedicine options for the consumer, allowed us to have virtual ICU cameras installed before they were absolutely necessary and have a touchless check-in for users as well as two-way-texting solution between patients and offices. Houston Methodist had over 50 care pathways that provided key information to patients that had successfully reduced length-of-stay and readmissions by over 25%. And, we had empowerment tools such as iPads and Alexa devices designed for patient rooms. We had AI tools such as MIC/Sick Bay in our patient rooms, symptom-checkers and chatbots. When COVID-19 came, the hospital pivoted within days to create a virtual, touchless environment for our patients and the results demonstrated that the innovations we invested in were well worth it.

There is so much more work to be done as we aim to graduate (or retire) more innovation opportunities that improve the lives of our patients and providers as well as reduce the cost of care and increase the quality of care for patients. Health care providers must embrace transformation, otherwise risk disruptors circling with new technology and innovative ways of thinking.

On Tuesday, October 13, I’ll share how we’ve embraced innovation like never before through our collaboration with Amazon Web Services to bring clinical voice technologies that drive clinical efficiencies and improve patient safety. Fostering a culture of innovation has led us to this opportunity and will continue to get us past this year -- the year that everything changed.

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