4 steps to drive innovation amid a crisis

Alia Paavola

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During a disruption, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare organizations may identify flaws in their existing workflows. While it may be a challenge to address these flaws amid a crisis, there are key steps healthcare leaders can take to drive innovation at their organizations no matter what they are up against, explained Tom Tonkin, PhD, Cornerstone OnDemand senior principal of thought-leadership and advisory services, in an April 28 webinar. 

“There are going to be situations where we need to transform,” Dr. Tonkin said. “[It becomes] how can we do that, arguably flying the plane while we are still remodeling it.”

During the webinar, sponsored by Cornerstone and hosted by Becker’s Hospital Review, Dr. Tonkin explained how health system leaders can be drivers of innovation during a disruption, and shared how healthcare leaders can take a strategy out of Starbucks’ playbook to help them.

What to do after a disruption

After a disruption is identified and understood, there are three ways to react to it, explained Dr. Tonkin. Healthcare leaders can look at an existing process or workflow and choose to sustain, evolve or transform it. 

To sustain a process means that the organization doesn’t need to change any aspect of it. To evolve a process means that the organization would change a small aspect of the process with a goal to get similar results. To transform means to completely remove a process or workflow and implement a new one, Dr. Tonkin explained.

This three-pronged approach allows organizations to identify areas of operations that need to be reimagined or completely transformed. In other words, when transformation is necessary, innovation comes into play, Dr. Tonkin said. 

A page from Starbucks playbook

One key area many hospitals are working to transform and reimagine is patient engagement, Dr. Tonkin said. To help organizations identify areas to improve patient engagement, health systems can take a page out of Starbucks’ playbook. 

Starbucks created a customer journey map to help them understand how a customer moves through its store or website to purchase a product. The purpose of a journey map is to gain an understanding of how a customer may feel at the key touch points in a visit to identify areas to improve.

For example, when a customer walks into a Starbucks store, they could feel excited or happy because the ambiance and aroma fit their expectations, or they could potentially feel worried because it is too loud or cold, Dr. Tonkin said. 

“The big takeaway is … Understanding the sentiment of the customer at each of the touch points allows us to improve on those in whatever way we see fit,” Dr. Tonkin said. 

This customer journey map is a strategy that can be applied in healthcare organizations too, Dr. Tonkin said. 

For example, hospitals could map out the patient journey in the emergency room, taking into account key steps like walking into the hospital, being admitted, receiving a diagnosis and getting discharged.

After walking through these steps and outlining how the patient may feel at each of them, hospitals can begin to assess if they need to sustain, evolve or transform any of the steps to improve patient engagement.

For example, during the diagnosis and treatment step in the ER, patients may not be happy because there are unknowns about what the diagnosis means or what the treatment will entail, Dr. Tonkin said.  As a result, hospitals may be able to identify an opportunity to improve the patient experience by increasing transparency. 

The actions leaders can take now

During the webinar, Dr. Tonkin laid out four actionable steps for healthcare leaders to help them identify areas for improvement and drive innovation amid a crisis:

1. Understand the disruption and its characteristics

2. Analyze what needs to be sustained, evolved and transformed in an organization due to the disruption

3. Map out the journey model of the most important workflows to help identify areas for improvement

4. Establish a diverse and communicative group of people to brainstorm ideas and drive transformation

Overall, disruptions in healthcare are inevitable and each one will come with new challenges. While it may be difficult to implement change during these times, there are key steps providers can take to drive innovation and transformation no matter the crisis.

To learn more about Dr. Tonkin’s four actionable steps, listen to the webinar here. 

More articles on digital transformation:
The tech Baylor, Scott & White is using to resume elective surgeries
How CIOs can prepare for digital transformation after pandemic
The legacy of COVID-19: How key innovations will outlive the pandemic

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