Take 'scary' out of health IT innovation

Naomi Fried discusses Boston Children's innovation culture
By Eric Wicklund
09:45 AM
Naomi Fried, chief innovation officer at Boston Children's Hospital

Naomi Fried, chief innovation officer at Boston Children's Hospital, is a frequent guest speaker at national healthcare IT, mHealth and telehealth events. She was featured at the IHT2 Health IT Summit in Boston earlier this year, where she talked about ways to incorporate innovation in day-to-day work and about specific initiatives at Boston Children's. A transcript of the IHT2 interview follows:

Q: Boston’s Children’s Hospital is currently building the Innovation Acceleration Program; what are the primary goals and intended benefits of this initiative?

A: The goal of our program is to enhance the culture of innovation and to accelerate the pace of clinical innovation at Boston Children’s. We do this by identifying unmet innovation needs and catalyzing work in those areas, facilitating grassroots innovation by helping innovators test and develop new ideas, and supporting strategic institutional innovation initiatives. Telehealth is one our current institutional priorities and my team is leading the strategy in that area.

[Read more about Naomi Fried and robots at Boston Children's: Health IT promises new paradigm of patient care.]

Q: What are the key strategies that providers should use to analyze the efficacy of a mobile initiative?

A: When we select a mobile initiative to work on or invest in, we are looking for solutions that will help us achieve more efficient and effective care delivery. We are focused on solutions that help the clinicians do their jobs more easily and save them time. We are also interested in mobile solutions that enhance patients’ experience when receiving care.

Q: Is there a specific methodology that is used to measure the value of innovation programs at Boston Children’s Hospital?

A: We take a process approach to evaluating our innovation program, using the innovation lifecycle as a framework. We look at how many projects have been started and moved through ideation. We track the number and success of pilot projects we launch. And finally, we examine how many projects have successfully crossed the “operationalization gap” or “o-gap.” We also look at the value individual projects bring to the organization in terms of their direct impact on the quality of care, the cost of care, and the patient and provider experience.

[See also: mHealth, meet Boston's innovators.]

Q: Innovation can be perceived as a scary and expensive concept for many organizations. Are there steps that providers can take to foster a culture of innovation?

A: One of the easiest and cheapest ways to build an innovation culture is by supporting the creation of a community of innovators. It doesn’t take much investment to create forums and communities where innovators can share and learn from each other. Boston Children’s has several overlapping innovation communities. In addition to our monthly Innovators’ Forum, we have built and support the Mobile Apps Working Group to support innovators who share an interest in developing new mobile apps. We also have an internal social networking platform, SPARC, to support our innovation community’s virtual connections and collaborations.

Q: As a chief innovation officer, what are some of your top priorities at Boston Children’s Hospital?

A: We have two very exciting programs to support and nurture grassroots innovation and a major institutional innovation initiative. One is our Innovestment seed fund, where we competitively award funding to innovators to test new ideas that will enhance clinical care. For innovators who would like to develop new clinical software solutions or mobile apps, we have the FastTrack Innovation in Technology (FIT) Award. When an innovator wins a FIT award they don’t get money, but rather time with developers who will work with them to build a software prototype that can be tested in the clinical environment. Both of these programs have been running for a while, so we have projects that are just starting, projects in the pilot phase and pilots that have been completed and are moving across the o-gap. My team helps support these projects at every stage of the lifecycle. My top institutional innovation initiative is developing and driving the creation of our telehealth program.

Q: How are mobile apps benefiting patients and clinicians along with improving the quality?

A: Mobile apps in the hospital setting offer tremendous benefit to clinicians. They can help doctors and nurses access and manage the myriad of data needed to care for patients daily The ability to untether from a fixed computer also enhances the workflow of busy hospital clinicians. BEAPPER is a mobile app built at Boston Children’s for our emergency department to help clinicians communicate more effectively and to get test results back more quickly.

Our patients are also benefiting from our innovative mobile apps. MyPassport is a mobile app that gives admitted patients access to their test results, helps them identify the members of their care team, and facilitates communication with their providers.

Mobile, Telehealth