Scott Arnold, Executive Vice President & CIO, Tampa General Hospital
Scott Arnold is the senior vice president and chief information officer at Tampa General Hospital, a nationally renowned nonprofit academic medical center. Arnold leads the implementation of all technology systems across the organization to ensure the collection, maintenance, safety and privacy of patient records
What are the most important considerations for leaders in healthcare regarding innovation?
Defining “innovation” is an important first step. The term itself can have several meanings; the first step is to define it at your organization to make sure everyone has the same understanding. For example, innovation does not necessarily have to be narrowly viewed as new and shiny technology, it can be a process or a new way to solve problems (have you ever noticed how innovative nurses can be?). Innovation can also be a contemporary approach to training such as brief video vignettes featuring your own team members versus traditional classroom training (who has not pulled up a YouTube video to
fix something in their house?). Innovation can be many things and it is important to define what it means in your organization, and then cultivate it in your culture to get the best out of everyone.
After innovation is defined, another important consideration is culture. A culture that encourages innovation is supported from the very top, and the biggest cheerleader should be the CEO along with the entire leadership team. I have seen first-hand how an enthusiastic, inspiring, and visionary CEO can galvanize a team around a culture of innovation. This culture accepts that there will be some failures to achieve the big gains. A willingness to take some risk, fail, and win unlocks a new gear that many organizations may not know exists within their own team. People are truly amazing when they are enabled to accelerate innovation. Expect the best ideas will come directly from team members and do not be shy about crowdsourcing ideas with the entire organization. This not only engages the entire team, it generally yields the best result.
Finally, the focus of a team’s innovative energy should target the organization’s strategic imperatives and vision. If your organization does not have a strategy (or vision), it will be a problem that requires immediate attention before you waste a lot of calories on innovation in the wrong direction. A direct alignment with strategy and vision will quicken the pace of meeting both strategic imperatives and visionary aspirations. With this approach, it is so much easier to experiment, make investments, and take risks when initiatives have complete alignment with strategy and vision. It is also important to review all the ideas cultivated by the team and say “no” quickly and early to things with the weakest alignment, to allow the organization’s focus on the best ideas and innovation with strongest alignment.
"A culture that encourages innovation is supported from the very top, and the biggest cheerleader should be the CEO along with the entire leadership team"
What types of innovations have been realized at your organization recently?
Where do I begin? Just over the last year, my organization implemented a NASA-style hospital command center that focuses on making our patient’s journey efficient during their stay. Hospitals and health systems are widely known to be inefficient compared to other industries, so we took a calculated risk to invest in a hospital command center that focused on some of our biggest process opportunities including patient flow, surgical tube mapping, and capacity. The investment paid off earlier than expected with a wonderful result for our patients and team members. This was less of a technology innovation and more of a set of process innovations. It caught the attention of our State Officials and legislators, and our command center was inaugurated earlier this year by the Governor of Florida as an honored guest.
Another cool innovation has been the implementation of “house calls.” That’s right, just like the old days when physicians made house calls, we have brought it back as a new way for patients to access our care. It is used for flu shots, urgent care at home, and other common ailments. The experience suggested by our patients and consumers is right in line with this innovation. We have just launched this service as a complement to our urgent care and primary care platforms, so we will see how it goes.
We have also recently partnered with a robust telehealth, modular self-service “clinic in a box” outfitted with sensors and thermal cameras that can detect weight, temperature, and hot spots solely by standing on a square. A life size display inside of the modular telehealth box makes you feel literally face-to-face with a physician, and if necessary, medications are dispensed directly in the box to the patient. After the patient is completely checked out, the door automatically closes, and the stainless-steel surfaces are blasted with UV to sanitize the space.
Finally, we are leveraging virtual and augmented reality (VR/ AR) to stage the design of our hospital room of the future. This application will give our nurses, physicians, and team members an opportunity to check out design ideas for future construction, technologies and become engaged in making it better. All of this done within a virtual reality without undergoing expensive construction to find out later we got something wrong. There are so many other things going on, I could go on for days.
What future innovation is ahead for your organization?
I believe there will be many ideas that come alive from our team, in all corners of the organization. In our immediate future, I see practical and real uses of artificial intelligence being applied as a decision aid for our team members. AI is in the future of medicine, no doubt. I also see more being done with physical robots in hospital settings to supplement (not replace) team members, like transporting meals to patient rooms or transporting supplies throughout the hospital. I think various forms of other automation (robotic process automation) will be applied to inefficient and mundane tasks that are ripe for automation. There are many innovations from other industries that may be borrowed and applied in healthcare to achieve positive gains and consumer conveniences. Again, there are so many ideas and directions that the future is bright.
Courtney Fisher-Lewis, Associate CIO, Saint Luke’s Health System & Ex-Sr. Director, IS Program Management, Children’s Mercy Hospital David Chou, SVP & CIO, Harris Health System & Ex-Chief Information & Digital Officer, Children’s Mercy Hospital