When most people think about innovation, the first word that comes to mind probably isn’t value — but it should be, says Brian Jacobs, MD. Contrary to popular belief, innovation isn’t about wowing users with cool new toys, but rather about leveraging technology to serve a practical purpose.
In fact, at the Bear Institute, the nation’s first pediatric health informatics institute dedicated solely on pediatric health IT, the key areas of focus are patient engagement, quality, and direct-to-consumer health, says Jacobs, who is both CIO and CMIO at Children’s National Health System. He describes the institute, which was delivered in partnership with Cerner, as “an open-forum innovation and learning center that allows people to collaborate frequently and talk about high-priority areas that need improvement.”
According to Jacobs, Bear has two arms: operational excellence and innovation. The operational excellence team focuses on key deliverables in areas like network performance and security, identifying about a dozen milestones per year that must be met to help maintain “a highly reliable, high-performing infrastructure to support everything we want to do.” The innovation arm includes representatives from research, nursing, and other areas who engage in table top exercises and white board sessions to figure out how to use the tools that are already in place.
And that, says Jacobs, is where the real joy comes—“when you start to see for the first time the fruits of your labor in terms of achieving the value you set out to achieve when you first thought about purchasing health IT systems.” It’s being able to harvest accurate and reliable data to make improvements in safety, quality, and care delivery that can strengthen the entire organization.
But is it the right path for every organization? During next week’s HIMSS conference, Jacobs will talk about why he feels Children’s offered the right environment for an innovation program, the framework and governance structure that were put into place to support it, and the critical role that Cerner has played in the creation and continued growth of the institute. He will present a session entitled, “Establishing a Health IT Innovation Program: Early Successes,” along with David Pierre, Senior Institute Executive of the Bear Institute, on Wednesday, March 2 at 2:30 p.m. in the Rock of Ages Theater.
And of course, an important point of emphasis in the session will be the value proposition, and the importance of ensuring that any products that are born from the Institute help meet an immediate need. The best way to do that? By facilitating open and ongoing communication among IT staff, physicians, nurses, and administrators — otherwise, “we end up innovating in a place where no one wants to go,” says Jacobs. Through the Bear Institute, clinicians with great ideas are encouraged to sit down with programmers to develop tools that are truly meaningful. That, he believes, is what innovation really means.
A perfect example is a trauma app that was recently developed at the Institute. The idea came from a trauma surgeon who wanted a more efficient way to document care in real-time, rather than sitting down after a resuscitation event and piecing together all of the steps. The surgeon, along with some of the nursing staff, sat down with developers to help with the design and build of the app, which will be integrated with the Cerner EHR.
It’s exactly what leadership hoped would happen when the Bear Institute was created — the ability to develop fast, “and if you’re going to fail, fail fast,” says Jacobs. He believes the program has not only helped increase staff engagement, but has inspired visiting organizations to make innovation a bigger priority.
“You can see the lights go on when people see what we’re doing,” he notes. “It rekindles that flame of why they went into health IT and made these investments to begin with, and they go home energized.”