IN FORUM: Health Care

Posted on Nov 1, 2013 :: Health Care , Insight On
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Continuing to do things the same way just isn’t sustainable for health care. How can providers and insurers find better ways to serve the consumer? How can they continue to provide the best, most state-of-the art care while also saving money? The answers are often found in the unknown and untried – and getting a company to take that step into the abyss is a challenge.

Insight invited Innovationedge President Cheryl Perkins to lead a discussion with a group of regional innovators: Mary Downs, system vice president for spine and orthopedics business lines for ThedaCare; Mary Maurer, vice president of business development and chief innovation officer for Holy Family Memorial in Manitowoc; Michael Miskulin, an optometrist with Valley Vision Clinic in Neenah; and Elizabeth Much, director of innovation and development for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.

Click here to hear an audio file of the discussion or watch videos of the individual speakers discussing their thoughts on innovation. Click here to read the edited transcript.


How can innovation lead change in health care?

Cheryl Perkins

“I think any of these programs, if they don’t become part of what you do and they’re a separate stand-alone thing, then it never becomes who you are, and it’s not embedded in the DNA of the organization. I think for any of this work, it needs to become part of the day-to-day institutionalized operation.”

–Cheryl Perkins, founder and president of Innovationedge



Mary Maurer

“I think the biggest thing that we’ve done is really changed from being inpatient to outpatient, sick to well. We still take care of sick people, but we changed our mission statement (which is a huge thing) five years ago, and said our focus and our whole goal is to keep the community healthier. That’s a huge mindset change.”

–Mary Maurer, VP of business development and chief innovation officer for Holy Family Memorial in Manitowoc



Elizabeth Much

“I think we have pockets of innovation, pockets of champions, parts of the company where it’s very successful and really taking root. Other parts of the company they’re coming along on the journey at a different pace, at their own pace, because they’re not as focused on innovation. Their job is still to protect the company and make sure that we are here for another 100 years.”

–Elizabeth Much, director of innovation and development for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans



Mary Downs

“Lean is just getting better at what you’re doing, but in health care, that is innovative first of all because we’ve been doing things the same way for a long time. While there’s great innovation in technology and therapies, that’s only driving up the cost of health care. There isn’t anything that’s going on that’s trying to lower the cost of health care with the exception of the preventative things. To me lean is innovative because we’re trying to figure out how do we remove that waste – how do we serve more patients with fewer resources, faster, better, at a higher level of quality?”

–Mary Downs, system VP for spine and orthopedics business lines for ThedaCare



Michael Miskulin

“For me, as a doctor, I like to see what’s kind of coming out, see where we’re pushing things for the future. I like to embrace new technology, and go with new things. We do it all the time with in the contact lens industry. They’re always getting new products out there, better lenses, better things for patients, so I always like to use the newest, latest, greatest. There are a lot of doctors who get stuck in their ways … and that’s not good for anybody.”

–Michael Miskulin, an optometrist with Valley Vision Clinic in Neenah



InForum Takeaways

Be renovative as well as innovative. We all know right now there’s so much uncertainty in health care. These leaders are embracing what’s about to happen to them and really leverage it to drive their renovation as well as innovation efforts. I think one thing we’re seeing in this space is we need both: We need renovation – programs like Lean – but we also need some disruption. We need innovation that’s going to help us to be more proactive for wellness, versus reactive in treating sickness.

Measuring progress can be nebulous. It’s hard to measure progress and know if you’re doing the right things. It not only comes down to understanding the financial measures and what a program or service costs, but it also comes down to, are your employees embracing the change? Are the families and the patients feeling a difference? Are you getting a new level of engagement as you move from being in-hospital to outpatient? How can you create the right education and services to supplement the products that you’re delivering in this space?

Find a champion. Or two. Any successful innovation needs a champion and a catalyst for change.

Innovation must be adapted. In this innovation space it’s not one-size-fits-all. Not all solutions – either product, or service, or culture change – are going to fit.

Keep learning. If you can treat a metric or an outcome as learning, and really measure what difference is happening based on those learnings, you’ll be able to jumpstart what you’re doing in the innovation health care space. —Cheryl Perkins