Strategies For Health Care Innovation
Today we talk with Sean Carney from Loocidity – both a victor and a “victim” from the great Innovation Wars – wars we both still fight in.
Welcome once again to thinkfuture podcast coming to you live from deep in the heart of Silicon Valley California. We have a special guest on the show today Sean Carney from Loocidity who is both a victim and a victor in various innovation wars at various companies and we’ve got him on to it tell us his tale so over to you.
SC: Oh well thank you very much, Chris, appreciate the opportunity. Yes, so I know I have done the variety of things within the innovation space a lot of that has been in and around focused in health care. So, I think that I certainly have had some victories. A victory, like they say always, is sweet, it can also be fleeting. I think a lot more of the learning comes from getting the opportunity to be thrown under the bus. We all learn more when we fail than when we succeed I mean because the let’s just turn around and look at ourselves and go “Well what do we what did we do wrong what could we have done better” and learn and grow.
CK: Absolutely agree I’ve probably learned way more in failure than I have learned in success. Tell us about this innovation program you were talking about that you’re working with.
SC: Yes so, I was in the health care space. I had an opportunity to build a healthcare innovation practice it’s in the United States and it was essentially being an internal startup. The idea behind it would be kind of use some of the more traditional day-to-day tactical process improvements that a company would need. These improvements would either generate cost savings or increase revenue and then almost in a bit of an R&D model take some of that funding and then apply it to something more forward thinking within the health care space. Some of it was around digital medicine, some of it was around some different business models that the organization presently wasn’t in
CK: Did you use an internal crowd-sourced program so that you set up some software and sort of set up some communications you could drive employees of the corporation to submit ideas so like push them into ideas some in ideas and then have others review ideas what was the process that you implemented?
SC: We did implement crowdsourcing software started out started off like most things with prototyping through just kind of a rudimentary spreadsheet and tracking. And then went forward and implemented a system to do that across the different offices and then some clinics as well. And that was part of what we did but a lot of the other ideas also came from strategic initiatives and then looking at both to see where there might be more they might alliance to look for the next opportunity right so did you find did you write your own software to select to do something simplistic now we eventually went with Spigit.
CK: Yes, we’re familiar with Spigit and have implemented them in several different locations sometimes they’re a little over a little overengineered for what we’re looking for but it really depends on the implementation that you’re trying to put out so when you talked about the idea so ideas are submitted into this system or whatever system you’re in and then what kind of review process that they go through to be.
SC: Spigit is essentially, almost like a virtual stage gating kind of process for a so it went through that I mean so part of it was. we as the innovation group where it was almost like bi-directional so now we have we as the innovation group think this is where an opportunity is well a way to sort of test that obviously is to put it up as a challenge and then I and then there’s just the Wild West of ideas potentials out there and they bubble up from the from the employees up and we would review them through this stage a process that was with within the Spigit software. I think that. a lot of the I think a lot of the ideas at least were where I was is a lot of the ideas that came from employees tended to be more process tactical or oriented improvement ideas right I think. Some of that is because that’s the work they do on a daily and that’s where they see the opportunities, but the but the testing of the more I think the more disruptive ideas would come from the innovation practice and then cascade down.
CK: Your team itself would submit ideas into the system as well so some assurance or ability is and when you look at the ideas that were implemented or pulled out of the system and something was done with them whatever was what kind of ideas were typically selected.
SC: Mostly process improvement that we that that came from the employees. I think that. I think it’s hard and I think this is probably something. it’s I like one of those things well what might you do differently in future is I think it’s more of a responsibility of an innovation practice to create an environment that supports the wild idea. And it also makes it I think you also you can give it you can give employees the permission to engage in wild idea thinking but I think you also need to either train them or create an environment where those ideas that where they were they could fly. There must be a safe place for them to reveal them but also some place where they go.
CK: Yes, that’s the same kind of experience I’ve had. Over many implementations is that inventor relations are important. You’ve got to make sure that you keep your inventors completely in the loop on everything that’s going to happen to the idea even if it’s a no right I mean no you can’t give them a black hole or it’s on hold or whatever there must be some kind of really obvious feedback to let them know what’s happening with the idea and then when ideas are selected and decided and we decide to implement them and move forward them then that’s got to be sort of message to everywhere and communicated within the organizations everybody knows that indices happening and they can see oh other people look at it other employees who maybe haven’t submitted anything in yet will say hey it looks like the system is working I’m going to reveal my idea now because a lot of times and I’ve seen this in cases where. You’ve had a program in place and hasn’t done very well and has communicated very well people go well the last time we tried this didn’t work so I’m not going to say and now because I’m going to remain skeptical and see if something happens but if you start communicating that back and they see implementations there’s a lot of communication they can see if things are moving then that sort of. Sort of breaks open that logjam and you get a lot is in the system you experience the same thing.
SC: Yes, And I think that healthcare is also unique in. I mean there’s typically the people are certainly a working in the hospitals and clinics they are over test as it is and so they tend to kind of work from task to task with what’s in front of them in that moment and they don’t and they tend to do the first person the regulation in health care is immense the legacy thinking in health care is equally immense. And so this provider causes this phenomenal amount of inertia so it’s why do you do it that way because I mean I literally have seen I mean there are people that are doing things or doing the same process even though the reason behind doing that process that piece of equipment or that. that requirement changed or long ago so they’re so focused on that I think it’s difficult for them too. There and they may even think there’s a better idea but it’s just faster for them to do the perpetual work around Yeah and so there’s all of these potential ideas for making something better making a patient experience better that are just lost because they’re not they’re not tracked that way yeah the other the other point that you’re making to me is about it’s about credibility every time an idea is submitted and there’s no response there’s nothing done with that idea. Not only does it deflate the person those people talk right and so if you if you want to kill any kind of a crowdsourcing system, don’t respond to the information that’s in it yeah that so yeah so, we.
CK: Can you tell me a little bit about the resistance that you would get when you try to do these things now because the public as a group would have because the company that you are is meet medium sized company
SC: I think that it had if there were several businesses within the company itself and get together like a holding company. And I think that. it’s difficult sometimes when people are people by design in those in those businesses haven’t had heavy operations focus. And the driver is certainly it’s a revenue generating business is. But the driver is mostly around. Again the finances the financial incentive and production which mean moving patients through a system faster. And so when you’re when you’re trying to. Implement. Some innovation or some different ways of thinking within such an environment. It’s different it’s not I’m not saying that places like Silicon Valley don’t have. don’t have a significant business is with the drive towards revenue and I just think that they’re sometimes they can be more open to different ways of thinking
CK: Right and there’s also the regulatory issues around imply any kind of implementations and absolutely as well and then usually I’m thinking is probably a big challenge is actually being able to capture the idea in the moment right because like you say you’ve got all of these individuals and they’re out there and they’re rushing to some type of health care emergency or maybe not I mean they’re in the flow of things an idea comes to them and then it’s media gone right there’s no there’s no way to simply I mean there are a few things like kindling out there like simple to capture mobile apps that you could roll out to an organization like that and hope that they use them and have that moment spare so that they can log whatever that the idea is but that’s another challenge right I mean you’ve got all this stuff happening in the heat of the moment and a lot times difficult to sort of step back afterwards and look at the data and say hey this could have been done this there was an idea here that we could have implemented that would have made things better
SC: I also think that I’m a huge fan of technology I mean I’m an even bigger fan of it within health care but I but I also. So think that this would be certainly an opportunity for a design thinking approach so that ability to embed go to see you need permission of course but if you spend I promise you if you are a non-health care person Medicare guy I want not health care person to come income in sit in an emergency room for twenty-four hours and then bring a group in of clinicians and ask why are you doing this why are you doing that to the patients what it discreetly and the thinking and the potential service innovations and product innovations that would come out of twenty-four hours embedded in a busy E.R.. Could have funded the portfolio of a company for the next five years right
CK: Actually, if you think about it I mean it’s almost like a hackathon right you get that money for our intensive observation and recording and communication session which then spins so hundreds of ideas for process improvement so disruptive some not so
SC: That’s a great idea. I like that as well because you do I’m going to have to but I’m going to I’m going to do it next week. Positive I’m going to borrow that line.
CK: No problem. So, tell me a little bit of did you was that if the challenges or whatever the I mean you said that I think this is one a situation where you ended up getting a lot of pushback so can you get it about how you dealt with that or what it was and how you dealt with it.
SC: There’s a large part of the ballet in the crowdsourcing software is it helps feed the portfolio of work and we really did try and manage the work. Off of a portfolio, the typical health care innovation portfolio that’s primarily the majority of it is a process of service oriented. Innovations and then with an eye towards the future and some of the more disruptive innovations and a lot of that is looking at the technology could be everything from incorporating telemedicine to. A tool a lot of mobiles trying to use mobile technologies to engage in the gauge of patients. On the intake side and post discharge. And it is putting all of that into a portfolio and they’re trying to manage that in all across the year two years. And so I think that one of the things that. Is the balance right it’s the. From an operational standpoint, I think that they tend to prefer and focus on. The tactical service and process improvement types innovation and tend to focus less on the more disruptive right I think I think as I think is innovators at least in my case I tend to focus more on the disruptive and look at and look at the service of the process improvement health care innovations to an end break. And I don’t know if it’s a balance or conflict maybe it’s both. and I think that’s where. that’s where there’s an opportunity for both those of us that do operations and those of us that are more innovation focused to file. find some. Homeostasis some way to there’s a health-related term yeah find a way to not only tolerate each other but. Really it makes each other better yes. You’re cool and so this. So, it was so what it is happening there I mean.
CK: You got that you got a lot of pushback
SC: Oh, yes well, I ran into the operator’s buzz saw all right. I think that I’ve had I’ve had I’ve had a fair amount of time to process that I think that I think I think that it’s like nature versus nurture right now you a boy there I think it’s both I mean innovators are no different I think some of us are just born and we see the world through innovation eyes but I think it at the same time I think it can be a learned and I think it could be a learned skill but I think like left brain or right brain. we tend to either be more of an innovator or more of an operator and I’ve learned over the years that I am definitely more of an innovator. and I think at times certainly earlier in my career. I. It’s not that I didn’t respect the operator I just like the innovators more. And I think that’s a mistake. And I would say that. If you’re working and if you’re if you’re going to work in in a corporation whether it’s any size for that. And you’re going to lead an innovative effort you must have relationships with the operators and you have to find a way to earn their respect. And I also I also think that you have to be a little bit more strategic in your approach I mean I can if you and I could probably talk for hours and how to make a better patient experience how did it leverages technology what’s next. And that conversation would build on itself and build on itself and great things would come from but we’re comfortable in that but if I had the same conversation with someone who’s a heavy operator I think the anxiety would send them through the roof right all or they would look at me like I was crazy. That’s usually what happens when we have these innovation sessions with.
CK: The yeah you bring them in and you say OK we want you to think five ten years out come up with ideas for that timeframe don’t worry about any barriers or challenges that you have today and it takes about an hour or two into the meeting before you see a light switch in their head and go oh you’re talking about something I can’t do today you’re talking about a future and I’m like yes we’re talking. And you see that switch when the when the and. The word operators actually great term because they’re so deep into the operations where they are now that it takes a while for you to sort of surface them out sort of take them out of the operational pool and dry off a little bit and say they look this is something different that we think we’re thinking about things beyond what you’re doing today in addition to sort of working back to repairing some of the things that are happening. Winning today but sort of trying to get them out of that out of that pool and like have you had some success to men I know it’s difficult I mean I do it in a number of different ways I mean you storytelling exercises to try to help them break them out of it operational mindset but have you used anything successfully that works to help get them out of that mindset.
SC: One of the things that I’ve learned to do is stop using the word innovation right it’s like. We’re done for an option or yes or just proposition or design thinking or any of the buzzwords right because that immediately puts their guard up if you if you basically use the language of the operator. And underneath just perform the methodology is within innovation and design thinking. The result is but they don’t they don’t know that you’re using a design thinking approach to their problem, yeah they’re just seeing you solving their problem that makes a lot. Yeah, which is really hard because you want to be proud. The innovation the thinking that creativity and you have to you just got to sort of like you got to be a closet innovator right I mean. I’ve also learned to try and move a little bit slower and make sure that whatever the. To understand what their key driver is that articulating part function concept right it’s like. If you’re in a if you’re dealing with someone in operations who you’re going to have a revenue focus and you’re talking about immediately talking about a destructive technology that might allow mobile users they’re going to their they’re going to they’re going to completely block and you’re going to lose you need to solve the problem a hand first that buys you that buys you credibility for OK well now that we’ve done what needed to be done let’s have a conversation about how this might be done even better right and I think that works that
CK: I was talking to the gentleman who was starting their own they were just going through a reorganize restarting their innovation internally innovation group and he was the first advice he said would give me some advice and I said well the first thing you want to do so show some very quick wins. Make sure that you are solving the problems and you’re and you’re communicating the problems that you are solving and you’re showing those quick wins right away because some of us really want to get into the sort of the meat of the really far out disruptive stuff right away but you really need to show that the program is progressing in and really hitting those goals first and some quick wins and then once you’ve done that like you just said sort of then you consider moving into it’s a little further out stuff
SC: I think another key component to is the ability to say no. Because I don’t know whether it’s the innovator in me or it’s the previous health care practitioner in me is that there is a little bit of a people pleaser kind of mentality and there are maybe that. Just me but. Sometimes things no matter how much you want to innovate or no matter how much no matter how good you think an idea is the environment to implement that idea or the timing just may be bad and so to recognize that there is a risk associated with this health care innovation and. No matter how awesome you think it might be. If it’s not if it’s not going to be successful because either the timing is off or the environment is off or it’s not supported by key stakeholder’s year it’s probably not a good idea to pursue unless you’re willing to take that
CK: Thank you so much great talking with you and good to talk to you yeah good luck to you and talk to you next time and until then don’t forget to thinkfuture.