Innovation Learning Network 2009 In Person Meeting – Learning Innovation in Healthcare

I am back from Grand Rapids, Michigan, site of the 2009 Innovation Learning Network in person meeting, at Steelcase University Learning Center . It’s a beautiful facility and a great place to bring some of our nation’s leading health care organizations and innovation experts together.

I was given the opportunity to attend by Kaiser Permanente to think about the place of innovation and learning about innovation in medical groups, and was not disappointed. I did not leave the meeting with the answer to the question, “how should a medical group (or any group of clinicians) involve innovation in their activities to learn to be better clinicians and deliver excellent care?” I did leave feeling that the question is important to explore, though.

First some specifics:

Our #ILN09 twitterstream shows what we did step by step. On the second day, we were treated to a closer look at the work of the Steelcase Nurture team, from the way they approach their work to the “why?” it is important. Part of this tour included a very enthusiastic look at the products, given to us by Libby Ferin, Director Experience Marketing & Communications.

The thing that I noticed both in Libby’s comments and even in things like which books were selected to be placed in the showroom was an integrated belief in the importance of the role of the patient and family in care. She referred to a prototype hospital room not as a patient room, but as a patient/partner/family room.

In the room itself, note that the patient and family have a view into the electronic health record that is tied to the role of the person in the room (based on a sensor located at the room’s entrance). Every room has spaces for families to engage, in recognition of the fact that “visiting hours” are long-ago concept. The lights over the sink that blink until new visitors wash their hands are a great way for patients and families to be involved in infection control efforts in a soothing way….

Clearly, we were touring a product showroom (and I don’t endorse any third party products or services on this blog, see my about page about conflict interest and independence of financial ties), the essence of my impression is that an organization in an industry outside of health care can be a model for health care organizations in reinforcing the best ways to work with patients and families.

The look at the products was tied to a look at the process, which includes two terms I haven’t heard before, but celebrate: “Evidence Based Design,” and “Participatory Design.” We know there is evidence-based medicine. Now that participatory medicine is becoming a part of health care, it has an analog in another industry, this is good.

As an aside, I really liked the way the Nurture design team presented their process, by printing out the slides and taping them to a board. It’s simple, sets expectations for the audience, and forces a focus on images and feelings rather than words:

What are some specific content things I took away from this meeting?

  1. Where is design in the HIT stimulus package? Much like a municipality might have an “arts tax” on public works, I think that a portion of the resource going to place technology in health care should be devoted to supporting the richest environment for its use. This is everything from placement, to lighting, presence or absence of sound (Kristen Juel from Kaiser Permanente hosted a fascinating conversation about the role of music in health care settings).
  2. What is the role of innovation/design in the success or failure of personal health care? Amy Tenderich has been a leader in thinking about this for diabetes. What about high blood pressure, an activity that is highly recommended but poorly practiced? We saw a great case study of how the “fridge pack” for soft drinks dramatically increased the consumption of aluminum. What’s the “fridge pack” for home blood pressure monitoring?

And on the deeper question…innovation in health care and among clinician groups: I think there’s a role for both learning about the techniques of innovation and applying them to solve problems in health care, and patients and those who care for them (physicians, nurses, allied health) should be involved, especially those closest to the patient(s) and their families.

I don’t know of organizations outside the Innovation Learning Network supporting exploration of this question and some of the answers, so from this perspective it was a great experience. If any of the readers of this blog know of other organizations stimulating these discussions, please feel free to post that information in the comments, or your answer(s) to the question about how and why medical groups or clinicians should integrate innovation learning and skills into their work.


Ted, to your question of others working on innovation in health services, I know of a few non-U.S. examples.

I've been working with the Mongolian Ministry of Health – particularly with an embedded group called the Health Sector Strategic Master Plan team – on innovation of rural health services using design thinking methods since 2006. We're working on doing the same in a few other places.

The UK National Health Service Institute for Innovation and Improvement works extensively on service innovation and has a few very good publications.

The most recent issue of the Journal of Business Strategy

(link below) is focused on design innovation and has 2 articles about healthcare. The first, very relevant to ILN 2009, is about the design of physical spaces in Japanese hospitals. The second is about SPARC at the Mayo Clinic – not sure if they are a part of ILN or not.

And thanks for blogging and tweeting from ILN 2009!

Jaspal (Core77 post, with link to the journal issue)

Excellent summary.

Mayo is not a current member of the ILN, however they were involved in 2006. Their work at SPARC was pivotal in the innovation movement in healthcare.

And I agree with Jaspal, the NHS is doing amazing things with "design thinking" in their organization. They have a beautifully designed guide called "Thinking Differently" to help their clinicians undertake innovation projects.

Ted, thanks for the post and happy to hear about the great work that the ILN is doing. To your comment around others working on innovation in health care I wanted to add the following:

I work at a Chicago based health care research and consulting group called Sg2. In addition to providing resources and tools to improve clinical effectiveness and overall performance to a number of hospital and health system clients we also maintain a small select group of clients that meets to discuss just such questions.

Called the Design Forum, this group is composed of some of our most forward thinking clients who we work with to push our collective thinking about the future of health care. We are focused this year on learning more about disruptive change and innovation in health care. The group has monthly virtual learning sessions and several in-person meetings throughout the year.

In past the group has traveled to Asia to visit several leading hospitals, visited a Toyota plant in Kentucky to better understand operations, and even visited with folks at Google to discuss the development of their PHR. In February the group had a virtual session with 3 UK health leaders about emerging developments in patient centered care and coproduction of care in the NHS.

Nice meeting you at the ILN InPerson – good summary above. The work gravitytank has done on mobile apps that I shared (but wasn't yet public – sorry I couldn't let you Tweet about it) in re healthcare innovation has now launched. While the article isn't on the healthcare aspects of the study specifically, the initial feed can be seen at the NY Times here:

Would love to explore further how mobile apps and innovation can/should be a part of the CareAnywhere idea going forward…



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Ted Eytan, MD