Digital Health Needs Fewer Passion Projects and More Strategic Projects

Joshua Liu, MD

Co-founder & CEO at SeamlessMD
LinkedIn: Joshua Liu
X: @joshuapliu
Co-host: The Digital Patient Podcast
Musings and Insights

“Many clinicians come to us with passion projects… but we can only focus on a few that align with our strategic priorities.”

I was speaking with a health system innovation leader who felt overwhelmed by the number of digital health projects they had taken on.

Many were initiated and championed by clinical leaders who were excited by a new technology.

Supported and well-intentioned, this innovation leader would allocate significant resources to help clinicians get their projects off the ground.

But problems would arise:

🎯 Does the innovation work? Who knows and who cares?

When something is a passion project, the champion is sometimes such a believer that no KPIs are regularly tracked because they’re bought-in no matter what.

So success only boils down to “how happy am I?” instead of “is it actually moving the dial on metrics that matter?”

🏝️ Innovation island:

Just because the clinical champion loved the innovation doesn’t mean the rest of their team cared to use it.

Or in a large health system, just because one department saw value, doesn’t mean others would.

So it would never go from pilot to scale.

😐 Honeymoon period over:

A visionary clinician who gets excited by their innovation may eventually get bored and move on to the next innovation.

So if the project hasn’t gone from pilot to scale yet, and this clinician was the only real believer, it’ll die.

The root cause of these issues?

The innovation wasn’t brought in to help solve a top priority for the organization. Which means…

Which means KPIs aren’t being tracked and success isn’t being measured. Which means…

There’s no staying power if the champion loses interest or the organization has to pull resources away to help solve problems that ARE priorities.

Whereas if you decide upfront that you must focus on fewer innovation that more strongly align with health system priorities, then:

↪ you will by default be solving a problem that matters, so…

↪ you will be forced to measure success, and then…

↪ you will enable staying power for the innovation if it’s actually working.

Saying “No” to enthusiasm and excitement isn’t fun. You need to communicate why strategic alignment is so important.

But when resources and attention are scarce, focus matters.

As Steve Jobs once said:

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.”

The Digital Patient

The Digital Patient takes an “edu-taining” approach to all things digital patient care. On this show hosts Dr. Joshua Liu, and Alan Sardana talk with healthcare, technology, and innovation leaders about the latest advancements in digital health, trends in digital transformation, and strategies for optimizing the patient experience.