A Recap of the Healthcare Innovators Professional Society Conference

By Kristin Brune, Michael Evans, Alejandro Harb, Joshua Reischer, M.D., Vivek Sant, M.D., and Adrian Trömel, our six TMC Biodesign Fellows, who scribed the conference, which took place Oct. 2–4, 2018.

Our six Biodesign Fellows at the HIPS event

The group is greater than the sum of its parts: ‘Council of 33’ healthcare innovators collaborate in inaugural Healthcare Innovators Professional Society (HIPS) conference — Adrian Trömel

In the first week of October 2018, 33 leaders in strategy, transformation, and innovation of some of the nation’s leading health care systems convened at the Texas Medical Center in Houston for the first ​Healthcare Innovators Professional Society​ (HIPS) conference.

Many of these individuals bear the title Chief Innovation Officer (CIO), a nascent role with growing importance in today’s ever-changing healthcare landscape. As a group, the ​Council of 33​ as they are known, represent 1 in 5 of every hospital in the U.S., 1 in 4 of the nation’s hospital beds, and 1 in 3 of every hospital admission.

HIPS serves as a society for the nation’s leading health care innovation executives to meet, support each other and share ideas and resources. For many, this was the first time they met their peers: many had previously been operating in isolation, seeking to identify opportunities for their health care systems.

Indeed, 75 percent of CIO’s have been in their role for less than five years, with the first CIO titles only appearing about 10 years ago. This conference brought them together to discuss and share the newest innovations and changes within their system, and to learn from each other.

As TMC Biodesign Fellows, we supported the HIPS conference and had the opportunity to engage with these innovation leaders. Throughout the Conference of 33, diverse subjects were discussed: from defining the role of CIO, to innovation in IT systems, technology investment opportunities, changing primary care requirements, and inter-institutional collaboration which we will expand upon below/​in the following series of blog posts​.

Toby Hamilton, M.D., founder of HIPS

The Chief Innovation Officer as a Catalyst—Vivek Sant, M.D.

An early conference theme was defining the role of the CIO and understanding the mode in which they can effect change.

As opposed to the traditional “operator” role with direct commands trickled down through the chain of operations, the “catalyst” is tasked with inducing change through influence. They inspire a culture of innovation that is self-sustaining, and empower each of these groups, in turn, to effect change within the organization.

In order to be effective in their role, the CIO must establish a focus, and make sure the key players in the organization are aligned. Additionally, they must be truly empowered by their institution — both financially, and through their sphere of influence — to effect change. In driving their organization forward in pursuit of achieving their mission, the CIO must also strike the right balance between investing in internal talent and sourcing external initiatives, thereby stimulating growth and renewing the culture of innovation and change.

There are various ways the CIO may prove their value to the organization, improving quality or decreasing costs through their investments, and even adopting innovative technologies that demonstrate the hospital’s leadership and commitment to advancing the medical field.

One fascinating commitment discussed by leaders at HIPS was establishing a “love metric.” There are many pain-points clinicians face daily that are not so easily measured in terms of cost or ROI, but would provide significant emotional value to the stakeholders. Solving these issues are important to these leaders in healthcare innovation, due to the emotional significance and overall culture of innovation that is inspired.

Finally, the successful “catalyst” must be good at facilitating and inspiring a culture of change. It is not enough for them to solely rely upon their own innovative capacities, because their own style of innovation may not succeed when applied equally to everyone. Instead, they must be facile enough to understand the right approach for the right team, and how to inspire and inculcate a culture of commitment to progress and risk-taking.

William McKeon, president and CEO of the Texas Medical Center

Innovating the Setting and Mode of Care—Kristin Brune

Perhaps the best example of this can be found in the primary care space. Primary care physicians, often called a “dying breed”, are anticipated to be in shortage of between 14,800 and 49,300 by 2030, according to a 2018 study by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

While a portion of this shortage can certainly be attributed to factors such as an aging and increasing population, is this “shortage” merely a perception, resulting from the inefficient and ineffective use of primary care physicians? Of patients visiting primary care clinics, most don’t require critical care, yet they are still often seen by primary care physicians, as opposed to nurses or physician assistants.

Additionally, many patients are seen by primary care physicians for routine check-up appointments that could easily be addressed via at-home monitoring, for example, a patient with a low-risk pregnancy, that isn’t experiencing any adverse complications. As we are seeing more emerging medical technologies in the at-home monitoring space, this paradigm certainly may shift.

Nevertheless, shifting patient perception of care may prove to be a barrier to progress. This is where truly understanding the needs of the patient, a hallmark of the biodesign process, becomes paramount. Emerus, a pioneer of the “micro-hospital,” is a prime example of how innovating the setting of care, while adopting a needs-based approach, can impact and create lasting value in the healthcare system.

Through truly understanding the needs of patients, whether it be to talk to physicians face to face while washing their hands in the exam room, or to leave urine samples in the bathroom with direct passage to the laboratory for testing, Emerus was able to vastly improve the patient experience, while simultaneously reducing costs and increasing efficiency.

Although “innovation in health care” typically conjures images of the latest, greatest medical equipment, the mode and setting of care are certainly ripe for innovation, and we are beginning to see champions of innovation in health care organizations, such as those present at the HIPS conference, implementing this definition.

HIPS tours the TMC Innovation Institute

Vetting Startups— Joshua Reischer, M.D.

For most hospital systems, vetting various healthtech startups is a new process. There seems to be an overall consensus among innovation officers that a formal process is needed to properly evaluate startups.

Hospital innovation offices can hear hundreds of pitch attempts from healthtech companies every year. Accelerator programs often give early startups a headstart as they can act as a filter, verifier and curator for hospital administrators.

As hard as it is for startups to gain access into the hospital ecosystem, it can be equally time and resource consuming for hospitals to simply find and vet companies that align with the specific problems they are trying to solve.

The opportunity for innovation officers to gather together allows them to create and share best practices for deciding which tech to implement and how best to do so. It can also be incredibly helpful for startups when hospitals previously less receptive to trying new technology can learn about verified experiences from a group of their peers.

Having project managers at the hospital to help guide the process from pilot to system-wide implementation, for example, is often a key component for a successful digital health implementation. This invaluable opportunity is bound to help administrators, startups and health care providers and most importantly, the patients they ultimately aim to serve.

HIPS break-out session

Artificial Intelligence— Alejandro Harb

Hospitals and health systems have been grappling with the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) tools that promise value in care settings. At HIPS, innovation executives that once felt challenged in adopting innovative AI technology began sharing opportunities for driving adoption through strategic collaborations.

Many in the HIPS Council of 33 showed a clear consensus in the interest for lowering doctors’ screen time. Voice-enabled scribing AI technologies, like ​Robin Healthcare​ and ​Suki were shared as successful companies that passed their most important criteria: accuracy.

Douglas Wood, Medical Director at the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation strongly advocated for AI technologies used for triaging patients more appropriately to lower unnecessary resource utilization in the front end. In contrast, others felt strongly about exploring intelligent technologies that can lower the total patient length of stay, citing that even a half-day reduction would be an attractive solution.

As Biodesign Fellows, our team has spent significant time observing the discharge process in various hospitals with differing patient populations. We’ve dedicated countless hours observing and interviewing physicians, case managers, administrators, technicians and patients to thoroughly understand the sources of the pain points and inefficiencies that were cited by the various HIPS members.

Sustaining Cross-Collaboration across Diverse Geographical Organizations— Michael Evans

Cross-organizational collaboration efforts like HIPS can be extremely challenging particularly across different geographic locations. Implementing an actionable plan for successful cross-collaboration was extensively discussed during the conference.

Similar to a start-up environment, the council realized that cross-collaborations can fail fast without the implementation of proper structures and governance. Oftentimes, such collaborations may fail not entirely due to a lack of effort or money but rather due to the failure to implement a clear process for moving forward from the outset.

To ensure the success of HIPS, multiple steps and initiatives were discussed: The councilors realized that they first need to , consider their respective needs, capabilities and the buy-in process within each of their organizations.

Then, they will have to assess what strategies are required to mitigate these challenges. Overcoming such roadblocks can be similar to overcoming hurdles in a race. Every hurdle or roadblock requires speed, skill, agility and timing.

About the Biodesign Fellowship

We are TMC Biodesign Fellows, part of a one year program to (1) observe in various clinical settings to identify unmet clinical needs, (2) develop solutions to the largest and most pressing needs, to (3) found a company. We represent two interdisciplinary teams with backgrounds in medicine, engineering and business; one team will develop a digital health solution, the other a medical device. During the HIPS Conference of 33 we got to hear the leading problem solvers in healthcare across the nation as they discussed their unmet needs, and the solutions they have implemented.