For most healthcare organizations, innovation is a top priority, particularly in today’s competitive environment. But when it comes to having a role on the C-suite team dedicated solely to innovation, most hospitals and health systems just aren’t there yet. The October healthsystemCIO.com Snap Survey found that very few (4.3 percent) organizations currently has a chief innovation officer. Many believe that innovation falls under the CIO (chief information officer) umbrella, while others say that their organization lacks the resources to offer such a role.
Interestingly, a number of respondents said that developing ideas isn’t the problem, but rather, having the time and resources to execute on those ideas. “I can think of many ideas, but if my team has no time to implement or think through how my idea actually would work, there is no point,” said one CIO.
Of the CIOs whose organization does not have a chief innovation officer, 26 percent believe it would reap benefits from the hire, as innovative efforts sometimes “take a backseat to keeping the lights on.” Others are open to the idea, but feel their organization isn’t positioned to get enough bang for the bucks it would cost to hire a chief innovation officer. And many are vehemently opposed, with one CIO noting, “I think the notion of being purposefully innovative is a trap, quite honestly. Most good ideas come from need, not from forcing ideas under the umbrella of being innovative.” What organizations should focus on, respondents said, is leveraging the technologies they already have.
Although there may come a time when the chief innovation officer is part of most C-suites, that time, as the survey indicates, is not now. As one respondent put it, “Innovation isn’t top of mind — survival is.”
(SnapSurveys are answered by the healthsystemCIO.com CIO Advisory Panel. To see a full-size version of all charts, click here. To go directly to a full-size version of any individual chart, click on that chart)
1. Does your organization have a chief innovation officer?
- However, we have an Innovation Institute.
- We have an innovation committee, but not an official role leading that effort.
- It’s my job as CIO to be innovative.
- There has been discussion about creating one, but we do not have it yet.
- I have not even heard it discussed.
2. If your organization does have a chief innovation officer, what is your formal relationship?
I report to the chief innovation officer
The chief innovation officer reports to me
4. If your organization does not have a chief innovation officer, do you think it could benefit from one?
- We share the duties now at the senior team level, but often the person with the ‘R’ needs to make priority adjustments to ensure the most important items are being addressed. At times, that means innovation efforts take a backseat to keeping the lights on, addressing incentive/quality/value programs, etc.
- Maybe is a better answer. The organization needs to be positioned to respond to an innovation officer for him/her to deliver value.
- Yes, we would benefit from one, but we are a smaller hospital with limited resources. We try to circumvent that issue by forming a committee — not as effective as specific focus, but we are making progress.
No, because we are already innovative
- The C-suite drives and respects the ideas of our colleagues.
- The structure of our organization today would not adapt to this position. This role today is a consolidation of our senior VPs as facilitated by our SVP of strategy.
- I could see very large systems having this type of position, but for the majority of healthcare organizations, the CIO should be filling the innovative shoes.
- Our culture is that improvement and innovation is everyone’s responsibility. With that said, what I believe most everyone in health care struggles with is innovating with technology. The pressures are getting intense, and in my opinion, people default to what they already know.
- It’s part of the role of the CIO (chief information officer).
No, because we don’t have enough resources to be innovative even if we had a chief innovation officer
- We have so many other needs that I believe this position would be way down the road.
- I think the notion of being purposefully innovative is a trap, quite honestly. Most good ideas come from need not from forcing ideas under the umbrella of being innovative. Good ideas can come from anywhere in the organization. I think it is a waste of money as our group has not come up with a thing in the two years it has been in place. Bunk, I say!
- I am kind of torn about this. While I think the concept is an interesting one, I am concerned because a major problem is the communication of initiatives across the organization. Without improving that overall communication practice, I think this new CIO would simply be another source of great ideas that cannot be adequately deployed because there is no CCO (chief communication officer) in organizations.
- We embed innovation duties among the executive team rather than creating a separate role. We are all responsible to innovate.
- Innovation is driven by different leaders within the organization, and I am still charged with evaluating ideas, looking at available resources to get it done, and marshaling through a prioritization process.
- It depends on where they would fit in the organization.
5. Are you so busy with things that must be done that you have no time to be “innovative”?
- That’s pretty much the case.
- Sometimes, but not always. LEAN and Baldrige help box things up in a manner that always tries to include innovation, but it still can be an “afterthought” rather than part of the original topic at times.
- This truly is a problem for us, as it is for many organizations.
- And this is a problem! You have to make the time and it is SO hard.
- There was no “maybe” answer. I can, from time to time, have a burst of innovation time (usually at home in the shower or waking up at 2 a.m.), but then when I get to work, I can’t find the time to act on the great idea. When you come in and your Outlook calendar is Blue for days on end and you find yourself looking for opportunities to squeeze something in between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., innovation isn’t top of mind — survival is.
- I think the question is off, at least for my organization. I can think of many ideas, but if my team has no time to implement or think through how my idea actually would work, there is no point.
- I believe being innovative is a job requirement — especially at this level.
- Financial and resource issues are defining factors.
- We are deeply committed to innovation with major emphasis on delivery innovation (e.g. ACO and PCMH) and process innovation (e.g. Lean).
- I would like to have more time, but the culture of our organization demands innovation.
- We are very busy, but always find time to be innovative.
- But VERY limited resources are available based on the “must do’s”
- I have a great leadership team which allows me time to spend in this area.
- There are always ways to be innovative. It is more the way you approach your work rather than a separate task.
- While I prefer ‘no’ to answering yes/no; we do struggle with “portfolio management” discipline.
- Must make this fit, there is never enough time.
Editor’s Note: Question #3, which asked for CIOs to share their organizations’ chief innovation officer job descriptions, was omitted due to a lack of response.