April/May 2004

Catholic Health Initiatives Focuses on Innovation

While innovation is alive and well within Catholic Health Initiatives, Kevin E. Lofton, FACHE, president and chief executive officer, says a greater understanding of where and how it occurs can fuel the spread of knowledge across the organization and help create even more innovation. “Catholic Health Initiatives has tremendous scope and scale, and we know that innovation is occurring throughout the organization on a daily basis,” said Lofton. “With additional strategic focus, Catholic Health Initiativescan leverage the value of innovation currently taking place and help inspire innovation in a few high priority areas.” Background and Development of Catholic Health Initiatives’ Innovation Focus To address the subject of innovation, Catholic Health Initiatives created an interdisciplinary work group in 2003. Within its charter, the Innovation Team developed a three-phase course for action and completed Phase I this spring. “From the start, it was important that we learn as much about what was being written about the discipline of innovation as what was actually being done in organizations inside and outside of health care,” said Dan Haus, vice president of compensation for Catholic Health Initiatives and member of the Innovation Team. Because “innovation” can mean so many different things to different people, the team quickly realized the need to define and agree upon concepts and terminology. “Our literature review and expert interviews told us we must establish a common conceptual framework, or ‘mental map,’ for innovation as the foundation for our work,” said Susan Henry, director of business development for St. Vincent Health System, Little Rock, Ark., and member of the Innovation Team. “The lack of a consistent framework and common understanding can lead to false starts, missteps and confusion.” Definition and “Current State” of Innovation within Catholic Health Initiatives Tim Moran, director of customer strategy for Catholic Health Initiatives, says the Innovation Team built understanding of and agreement to a relatively simple framework. “Within Catholic Health Initiatives, ‘innovation’ now means both a type of innovation — a procedure, process, product/service or business model — and a degree of innovation — either incremental, distinctive or breakthrough,” he said. To illustrate Catholic Health Initiatives’ framework for innovation, the team developed a grid (below) that combines the types and degrees of innovation. “This grid, populated with examples of current innovations from across the organization, helps us understand how Catholic Health Initiatives defines its ‘current state’ of innovation,” said Bob Cook, vice president of strategic planning for Catholic Health Initiatives. “Just as important, it helps us describe our ‘desired future state’ of innovation going forward.” Currently, like most large, operations-driven organizations, Catholic Health Initiatives’ innovation activity skews to the lower left area of the grid, which shows incremental improvements in procedures and processes. “The challenge is to improve our ability to produce more innovations overall, as well as increase the number of innovations higher on the vertical axis and out on the horizontal axis,” said John DiCola, senior vice president of strategy and business development. “Desired Future State” of Innovation within Catholic Health Initiatives Phase I of the Innovation Team’s work concluded with specific strategy recommendations approved by the President’s Council. Three strategies will set the course for Catholic Health Initiatives’ innovation focus and resource investment for the short and long term:
  • Improve the organization’s ability to produce innovation on a daily basis. This includes doing a better job of encouraging and recognizing innovation throughout the system and focusing knowledge management resources to enhance the spread of innovations across the organization.
  • Generate innovation in priority areas that will produce system-wide benefit. The team is currently reviewing opportunities around which to proactively focus innovation efforts on a system basis, such as end-of-life care models, senior service demonstration pilots and a national nursing home collaborative.
  • Define leadership’s role and responsibilities for innovation organization-wide. This includes a commitment to defining responsibilities, accountabilities and resource commitments to support defined priorities. With approval to proceed, the Innovation Team has begun Phase II of its work. The objectives for this phase include:
    • Develop criteria for selecting priority areas for innovation.
    • Recommend resource allocation and focus for increasing the quantity and spread of innovative ideas.
    • Secure leadership commitment to resources, accountabilities and incentives.
For more information, contact Bob Cook, vice president of strategic planning for Catholic Health Initiatives, at bobcook@catholichealth.net.

04-04innovation Photo

Innovation Team Charter To recommend where and why Catholic Health Initiatives should invest its resources in order to advance innovation organization-wide and optimize its investment return.
  • Identify the critical success factors required to support innovation.
  • Analyze the existing Catholic Health Initiatives environment against these criteria.
  • Recommend how Catholic Health Initiatives can most effectively focus resources towards innovation.