As healthcare moves toward an increasingly consumer-focused, value-driven future, many healthcare organizations are struggling to keep up with the latest models and trends.
To help combat this, healthcare organizations across the country are expanding their leadership roles with new positions designed to drive the much-needed innovation in an industry that famously struggles with it.
Leaders in those roles say they are providing a way forward for the industry, but some wonder if those roles shouldn’t be left in more traditional C-suite positions.
Michelle Histand is director of innovation at Independence Blue Cross in Philadelphia. There, she says that she and her team are tasked with coming up with new ideas and solutions to problems facing their business areas.
“I oversee a group of people who use design thinking and other creative-problem-solving methodologies to help our business areas and our customers do just that—creatively problem solve!” Histand says. “We are essentially a team of creative consultants. We work with groups to understand their opportunities and what success would look like and develop interventions to help get them there using our tools.”
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She says that her role is mainly about getting people out of their comfort zones and familiar routines. Innovation, she stresses, requires taking a fresh look at how things have always been done.
In practice, Histand says, it involves “a ton of critical thinking—I say we are able to take a mess and make sense of it. We also do a lot of relationship building—we have to make people feel comfortable doing things that are uncomfortable—because innovation can feel strange!”
For organizations interested in adding this type of position, Histand stresses that it’s important to hire someone who is action-oriented and is able to thrive in new situations.
“This type of position or team is expected to do things differently,” Histand says. “I follow the mantra of ask for forgiveness, not permission. It’s important that this position be situated accordingly in the org. I’m under a leader who appreciates what we need to do and gives me all the backing I need to get it done.”
However, Stewart Schaffer, co-Founder and managing partner at CSuite Solutions, a national healthcare advisory firm says the innovation officer role should be something that every executive should be a part of.
“The CEO of a health system should require that every single department head be responsible for innovation within his/her function,” Schaffer says. “It should be part of the cultural DNA of every enterprise and curated/managed as part of each department’s innovation plan referred to as a strategic plan by most large industries.”