In Front of the Counter with the Innovation Learning Network

One of the (many) groups I am excited to participate with in my new role is the Innovation Learning Network , which “brings together the most innovative healthcare organizations in the country to share the joys and pains of innovation.” Kaiser Permanente is a member, of course, as are many other leading edge American health organizations.

In learning about the Network, I spoke with Scott Heisler, RN, MBA, who works with the Kaiser Permanente Innovation Consultancy. He walked me through the innovation approach used by the consultancy (which by coincidence I read and blogged about right here), and then presented a concept that really interested me – the “in front of the counter / behind the counter” sensation that we sometimes have in health care.

I did a little looking on line and found this on McDonald’s Corporate Responsibility blog:

I couldn’t help but think about the challenges that all of our businesses have – regardless of our industry or size of operations – making the connection with our customers on the environmental improvements we have, and continue, to make. So much of our innovation happens “behind the counter”, so it’s almost invisible to our customers if we don’t proactively communicate it.

I think this is a useful way to think about things, especially when we talk about involving patients. Are we thinking about the front-counter experience in everything we do? Are there times when we inappropriately ask people who are part of the care team (nurses, allied health, other physicians, patients and their families) to be in front of the counter when they should be assisting behind the counter? Or should we change the front of the counter experience in such a way that people don’t have to come behind the counter to support a safe, affordable, high quality care experience?

I then remembered what’s happening with New York City restaurants, and one in particular: when more information was provided to consumers, Le Pain Quotidien learned that this was better business for all of their stores (including Washington, DC) and adjusted things behind the counter to support it.

It’s interesting to think about how working from the front of the counter can create improvement…..Either way, I’m looking forward to following the work of the ILN, and encourage readers from innovative organizations to think about doing the same.

Ted Eytan, MD