Design thinking and service innovation , happens in the #epicenter , fit for health information technology – our trip to Peer Insight

As I admit to myself constantly, I am not that smart and my ideas are not that unique. With that recognition comes a drive to find people who have similar ideas and are smarter than me. The areas of innovation and design thinking are ones that I have been drawn to and am learning about, but am still trying to fully understand. And yet, I am drawn to them and find myself wanting to sit in rooms with people like Tim Ogilvie and Jeneanne Rae….  (walking meeting not doable during this time of year in DC, small price to pay)

Peer Insight, Alexandria, VA

Jeneanne and Tim are the Co-founders of Peer Insight, based in Alexandria, Virginia, in a uncharacteristically innovative appearing workspace for this part of our region, as Lygeia Ricciardi ( @lygeia ) and I discovered when we came for a visit. We both serve together on the AHRQ Innovations Exchange Expert Panel.

Both are experts in service innovation, business model design, and innovation management and strategy. That’s a mouthful, however it becomes more relevant to me when Jeneanne explains that in her tenure as an adjunct professor at the Georgetown McDonough School of Business, she discovered that the innovation literature was focused on manufacturing rather than service industries. This followed 7 years on the senior management team at IDEO, where she partnered with Tim to pioneer thinking in service innovation and business model design.

As we were shown case studies form Jeneanne and Tim’s work, (you can read about one of them online here) the connection became very apparent to the other exploration I have done, including trips to Steelcase University Learning Center, and work with Kaiser Permanente’s Innovation Learning Network. At Steelcase in particular, I was struck by the fact that a tremendous amount of resource is going into “implementing” health information technology, yet not a lot is going into the design of the environments and experience that goes along with it, to potentiate its value in improving health.

Should there be a version my hometown (Phoenix)’s public arts program, where 1% of public works capital expenditures are diverted to supporting cultural aspects of the Southwest ,for health information technology? 1 % of health information technology capital expenditures toward promoting a new culture of health care, that prioritizes the experience of the people served by it (the patients and their families)?

It seems that what this has in common for me (in addition to what I’ve done studying LEAN) is about understanding the user / patient / citizen experience in receiving health care, and not just health care, but being healthy in general.

As I get the question, “Why should we invite just one patient’s (or two or three) experience into this discussion?” It is really helpful to be able to respond, “here’s why.” You can see various attempts of mine on this blog to explain the “why?” of patient (experience) involvement, usually by sharing patient stories. Most recently, I was at GravityTank in Chicago with the Innovation Learning Network, where my epiphany was that “focus on patient stories” is not a question in the work we do, it’s a statement.

Design thinking in progress, it’s visual

The really nice thing about this body of work is that it’s well described and has been tested across industries. This ties into my philosophy that if someone somewhere has figured out a better way to do something, I want to know about it. Our patients do, too. Luckily there are (yet more) people local to us in the #epicenter who have figured out better ways.

You can catch up with Jeaneanne in her regular writing for Businessweek, and with Tim on his own blog, as well on this blog, hopefully, as @Lygeia , myself and others, work to with experts to integrate design thinking into health information technology.

In adding Tim’s blog to my RSS reader, I finally created a folder of feeds for “innovation.” Maybe I am starting to get it…


Ted Eytan, MD