Innovation Through Collaboration

Frank Fortner200By Frank Fortner, President of Iatric Systems
Twitter: @iatricFJF
Twitter: @IatricSystems

Beth Israel Deaconess Healthcare CIO, Dr. John Halamka, recently spoke in an interview with Jonathan Bush about Meaningful Use having accomplished its initial purpose and offered his thoughts on how we get back to innovation. He said, “It got us to adoption. We moved from paper to electronic to basic electronic functionality that is good enough. But now it’s time to let loose the market for innovation.” I’ll just say what everyone else is probably thinking … amen!

Dr. Halamka, while very supportive of the digitization of health records, has been a frequent voice of caution against overly burdensome, overly prescriptive regulations that could end up (and many would say are) stifling innovation. I think many in our industry would agree that less healthcare IT innovation has taken place over the last several years with all the focus on checking the boxes of Meaningful Use. But when conditions are again ripe for innovation, and I believe they will be, how will new ideas turn into new solutions? In my experience, this “magic” best happens when technically sharp, creative, and hungry solution providers partner with forward-thinking healthcare providers that are trying to solve a technical challenge, automate a process, or find a more efficient workflow. In other words, it’s a symbiotic partnership that seems to produce the best results.

Here is a good example from personal experience, the story of our MobiLab® solution. Years ago, one of our customers approached us and asked us to consider building a “better mousetrap” for barcoded specimen collection. At the time, there was a lot of room for disruption because the existing products didn’t make use of WiFi to transmit data to/from the LIS, so a number of efficiencies (and improvements in patient safety) were missing. Still, there was an existing market, so our initial response was “But there are already several existing solutions out there.” The customer’s response was, “Yes that’s true, but they all fall short in some area or another. Please consider building the right solution using today’s technology.” From there, we convened a focus group of customers for additional feedback and confirmed there was indeed room for a better solution. The rest, as they say, is history. MobiLab has enjoyed many years of success and even several KLAS awards, but (and please don’t miss this) it wasn’t because we were the smartest innovators out there. It was because we were smart enough to listen to and collaborate with our customers in deciding which products to commit development resources. In fact, most of our product success has come in similar fashion to MobiLab, and that’s my real point — collaboration is the key!

Dr. Halamka’s statement, “letting loose the market for innovation” is often (in its most successful form) a joint venture between healthcare providers and solution providers. One or the other by themselves doesn’t necessarily produce award-winning results, but when paired up, there’s virtually no limit to what can be accomplished. I look forward to the time when the industry is once again an environment where more of this type of collaboration naturally takes place. Optimistically, I believe that time may be closer than we think. And as Dr. Halamka would hopefully agree with, that’s no snake oil!

“Unity is strength … when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” ― Mattie Stepanek

This article was originally published on Iatric Systems Blog and is republished here with permission.