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Healthcare Innovation Governance: It's not just metaphorical

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

Metaphors are the linguistic tools that allow us to dance around complex ideas, gently nudging our audience to connect the dots in a way that's both insightful and entertaining. During a recent conversation at the American Telemedicine Association's Digital Transformation Special Interest Group meeting, metaphors became such a recurring theme that we wrote it down as a major driver of healthcare transformation. As if innovation in healthcare wasn't already a puzzle worthy of metaphoric musings, our esteemed guests, Dr. Sarah Pletcher and Dr. Tarun Kapoor, managed to weave a tapestry of analogies that added flair to the already fascinating discussion on innovation governance.

Evolving Healthcare Innovation Governance: Insights from the Pioneers

Innovation governance is no mere buzzword—it's the scaffolding that holds up the future of healthcare. Dr. Sarah Pletcher, System VP and Executive Medical Director of Strategic Innovation at Houston Methodist, and Dr. Tarun Kapoor, Senior VP and Chief Digital Transformation Officer at Virtua Health, guided us through the intricate labyrinth of innovation's evolution.

The healthcare innovation arena is as intricate as a Rube Goldberg machine designed by a team of geniuses. Emerging technologies have added new layers of complexity, leaving us to navigate the delicate dance between progress and privacy. Dr. Pletcher, with her deep dive into virtual care and AI integration, highlighted the challenge of understanding the nuances of these technologies' implications for data, privacy, and intellectual property.

This complexity is further compounded by the ever-shifting healthcare landscape—workforce and reimbursement woes, anyone? Dr. Kapoor, drawing from his journey from hospitalist to informatics, illuminated the necessity of embracing new skill sets to manage this complexity effectively.

Iteration, Transformation, and the Art of Prioritization

Here's a little secret: not everything needs a grand transformation to make a monumental impact. Dr. Kapoor's perspective on iteration, transformation, and their interconnectedness resonated deeply with me. He stressed that transformation doesn't always require a bulldozer; sometimes, a paintbrush is enough.

But how do you pick which projects get the paintbrush treatment? Prioritization. Dr. Pletcher emphasized the importance of laser-sharp focus on projects that not only make an impact but are also feasible within the given constraints. For the rest, find other offramps to ease the traffic or better still, automate it all!

Special Forces, Housebuilding, Shaking Trees: Metaphors Abound!

Whatever metaphor you want to use, innovation thrives on diversity—of thought, skills, and perspectives. I thought the "special forces" team and the general contractor metaphors used by Drs. Pletcher and Kapoor really hit the mark. Just like a team of special ops, or sub-contractors, in which diverse skill sets must work together seamlessly, an innovation team benefits from having a general contractor, a transformational leader who understands how various skill sets fit together.

Measuring success remains the elusive butterfly we chase through the orchards of innovation. Dr. Kapoor's vivid analogy of shaking an orange tree caught my attention. Instead of counting individual oranges, he encourages us to focus on the overall health of the tree, and by extension, the health system, the orchard. I also found my own reflection in Dr. Pletcher's measurement of success: Do people want me to come to meetings or do they prefer I not get involved?

Driving Innovation: Navigating Inertia and Trust

Innovation isn't just about coming up with groundbreaking ideas; it's about overcoming inertia and building trust. Dr. Kapoor addressed the challenge of saying "no" in the face of a plethora of ideas, while Dr. Pletcher emphasized the need for reliable and functional technological solutions.

Dr. Kapoor's framework for breaking through inertia is a gem—understand the individual's perspective, consider the "what's in it for me" factor, and navigate time and money constraints. But innovation isn't only about tactics; it's about addressing fears and trust issues, especially among clinicians whose training emphasizes consistency.

AI's Promise, and the Way Forward

As the conversation ended, we discussed AI's promise in healthcare and its potential impact on our world. The impending challenge of supply-side rationing due to insufficient human clinical support loomed large, and both Drs. Pletcher and Kapoor underscored the importance of innovation in reshaping traditional supply-demand assumptions. We recognized the potential for virtual teams and fresh perspectives necessary to take advantage of the innovation around us to help us remedy these challenges.

It's evident that the world of healthcare innovation governance is a captivating dance between complexity and collaboration, transformation and iteration. From metaphors that paint vivid landscapes of ideas to the challenges of shaking orange trees and breaking through inertia, Dr. Pletcher and Dr. Kapoor provided us with a symphony of insights.

Embrace the Journey: Join the Conversation

The privilege of leading these kinds of conversations at the ATA's DT SIG is not lost on me. These SIG meetings are exclusively available to ATA members, and I highly recommend attending them. In addition, the ATA has an exciting fall lineup, offering summits and policy conferences that promise to stimulate minds curious about telemedicine and innovation. I hope you can join us.

In the meantime, whether you're navigating innovation's waters or just casting off, the discussion persists. For those keen on forging an effective innovation governance structure, connect with Flying Pig Consulting. Follow us on LinkedIn or explore our site to stay engaged.

In the end, healthcare innovation is about connections, insights, and conversations that spark progress. Let's journey together, shaping a brighter, innovative healthcare future. Note: This content has been generated with the assistance of artificial intelligence. It has been reviewed, edited, and refined by a human to ensure accuracy, relevance, and coherence.

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