Nurses are well-positioned to lead innovation and digital transformation

More and more health systems are taking steps to "fully unleash nurse innovators at the leadership level," a new report shows, tapping their specialized expertise for technology deployment, process improvement, patient experience and more.
Share

More and more hospitals and health systems are recognizing the innovation their nurses can bring to the table, shows a new study from the BDO Center for Healthcare Excellence & Innovation and the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

WHY IT MATTERS
On both the clinical and operational sides, nurses are appreciated by colleagues for their skills in areas such as "interface of clinical innovation and technology" and "design-thinking for process change," according to the report.

But the study also finds that health system leadership needs to do better encouraging and optimizing the forward-thinking skills these nurses can contribute.

"When people think about nurses, most view them as caregivers," said Therese S. Richmond, associate Dean for Research & Innovation at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. "They don’t really think about nurses as innovators or the impact nursing can have when it’s applied to creating research-driven, innovative health solutions – both products and processes."

She added: "Every product and process that touches a patient goes through a nurse."

Until recently, hospitals have been slow to recognize and capitalize on that fact. The new report shows that just 31 percent of clinical leaders surveyed say they currently have a designated nursing leader whose primary responsibility is innovation. And only 46 percent of business leaders say they make a point of including people with a nursing background in their C-suite.

But it also shows that in the next few years – by 2025 – both the clinical and financial sides are planning to make much better signal that they’re taking steps to "fully unleash nurse innovators at the leadership level."

Some 81 percent of clinical leaders say they're exploring ways to put nurses as decision makers on all strategic planning teams; 57 percent of business leaders say they're also intrigued by the advanced leadership skills nurse innovators can offer.

Both clinical and business leaders report that those RN skills – clinical innovation enabled by technology – will be key strategic assets in the years ahead.

"It’s crucial for the health system – especially business leaders looking to develop patient-centric solutions – to engage nurses early and often," said Kelly Robke, RN, vice president of thought leadership at Becton Dickinson. "This doesn’t just mean within the traditional product development process. It also means getting their buy-in on how to commercialize, implement and educate around the solutions, especially if it involves process change or technology.”

THE LARGER TREND
Whether it's dealing with the silver tsunami of an aging population, combating the opioid crisis, or managing the complex imperatives of population health, nurses and the technology they use each day are positioned to be major players in the ongoing digital transformation of healthcare.

To optimize their ability to do that, this report offers four pieces of advice for health systems. They should:

  • Get rid of any policy or procedure barriers that discourage nurses from "practicing to their full scope"
  • Encourage specific new approaches to nursing innovation, such as design thinking and entrepreneurship skills
  • Create enterprise-wide structures and incentives that encourage interdisciplinary innovation teams
  • Elevate at least one nursing leader to the C-suite

ON THE RECORD
"Nurses are already leading sweeping, research-driven innovations at larger, systemic levels within clinical and business organizations. They’re just having to navigate around certain roadblocks to do it," said Dr. Karen Meador, managing director and senior physician executive at The BDO Center for Healthcare Excellence & Innovation. "Roadblocks need to be removed, and systems must embrace nurses as leaders in innovation. Unleashing nurse innovators is a care imperative and a business imperative."

"Health stakeholders’ ability to thrive amid the new consumer-driven health system depends on nurses claiming a seat at the table at the leadership level," added Antonia M. Villarruel, RN, Dean of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania. "If true care transformation is to take shape to improve patient outcomes at lower costs, health systems and businesses must recognize that nursing can and must extend well beyond the bedside and community – and into the boardroom."

Digital Transformation in Healthcare

In May, we'll talk to experts and professionals on the front lines about what's really happening today with the digital transformation in healthcare and what hospital executives need to be doing right now.

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com

Healthcare IT News is a publication of HIMSS Media.

Stay Informed

Susbscribe today to receive our FREE monthly e-newsletter