Collaborative Mindset, Innovative Strides

by Stevie Zvereva
Photography by Jim Carlson/OSF HealthCare

OSF Innovation is striving to change the face of healthcare delivery to benefit the patients and communities they serve.

Launched in 2016, OSF Innovation is a multidisciplinary center and program within OSF HealthCare, focused on both internal and external innovation to reinvent the future of healthcare delivery. Defining innovation as the process of translating ideas that align with its vision of transforming healthcare into value, OSF HealthCare wants innovation to inform every aspect of the organization.

The idea is nothing new. “Truthfully, the Sisters are founded in innovation,” states Barbara Carter, strategic marketing director for OSF Innovation. “Foundationally, innovation has always been a part of OSF. When the Sisters needed immediate care for an individual, they borrowed a news helicopter—and that was the start of Life Flight. Or, in Escanaba, [Michigan] we have a hospital that, before incubators were around, created a steam incubator.”

Innovation is in our DNA, she adds. “We’ve just formalized it now by creating an innovation agenda.”

Collaboration, above all, is key to this unfolding strategy. “We understand the value of a fresh perspective,” says Carter, stressing the focus on external partnerships. “When you start looking at healthcare and what kind of challenges there are, it’s kind of like ‘boiling the ocean.’ How do you fix everything?”

In an effort to address some of healthcare’s biggest challenges, OSF Innovation has strategically identified four main areas to guide its investment and activities in innovation:

  • Advancing simulation;
  • Radical access to care;
  • Aging in place; and
  • Creating more for those with less.

Through Jump Simulation and its partnership with the University of Illinois, OSF Innovation is expanding simulation efforts to better observe, redefine and test solutions for improved care. By removing barriers to healthcare for disadvantaged individuals, more patients are having their needs met. By reaching the aging population “where they are at,” patients can receive the care they need, when and where they need it. And through the development of virtual care and at-home diagnostics tools, patients are more empowered to take charge of their own health.

Advancing Partnerships
With these focus areas as drivers, OSF Innovation garners ideas both internally and externally through strategic partnerships. Internally, it encourages mission partners across the organization to develop breakthrough solutions that don’t yet exist. Externally, OSF purposefully chose not to be an incubator or an accelerator, but to partner with such entities to address healthcare challenges.

“We play several roles in those spaces,” explains Matthew Warrens, vice president of Innovation Partnerships. “We may be mentoring a company because we know they’re working on a problem we want to solve, or we may be piloting a company’s technology—or actually implementing it.”

Last December, OSF partnered with MassChallenge, an early-stage startup accelerator headquartered in Boston. Through this partnership, OSF has the opportunity to vet hundreds of digital health startups—and can choose up to two for further mentorship. That means connecting them with healthcare leaders, initiating pilots and introducing them to investment opportunities.

“We are looking for companies working on technology, products and services that will solve an OSF need,” says Stan Lynall, vice president of OSF Venture Investments. “These include solutions for removing barriers to care for disadvantaged individuals, transforming how care is delivered to seniors, and expanding access to care in ways we haven’t tried before.”

WiserCare’s interactive decision support platform, for instance, is currently being piloted by OSF for advance care planning. “We’re learning through WiserCare that advance care plans made at home are more robust,” Warrens notes. “When [patients] are doing it at home, they have the ability to talk to their spouse and to the family as they’re making these important decisions.”

Another startup, Inside Rx, is working to expand affordable access to prescription medications; OSF will be one of its first clinical trial sites for precision dosing for antibiotics in NICU patients. CancerIQ, a genetic screening tool for breast and colon cancers, is being used to flag OSF patients to be seen by a genetic counselor. “We have a unique opportunity to expose these startups to our healthcare system, clinicians and subject matter experts,” says Warrens. “We also want them to visit and better understand our communities.”

OSF Innovation
Innovation leaders at OSF HealthCare (L-R): Dr. Jeffry Tillery, CEO, OSF HealthCare Medical Group; Mark Hohulin, Senior Vice President, Healthcare Analytics; Courtney Pilat, Telehealth Program Manager; Sarah Metzger, Telehealth Program Manager; Roopa Foulger, Executive Director, Data Delivery; and Matthew Warrens, Vice President, Innovation Partnerships

A Collaborative Space
The broader vision for OSF Innovation has been in the works for years, explains Dr. Jeffry Tillery, CEO of OSF HealthCare Medical Group. “The Jump Trade Simulation Center started the foundation of our simulation environment back in 2012,” he notes. “Then co-locating a multitude of our resources and disciplines together around innovation for healthcare… actually came to fruition in July 2016.”

The $12 million project transformed two floors at Jump into an open, shared workspace for a range of departments, including OSF Ventures; Performance Improvement; TeleHealth; Healthcare Analytics; Translational Research; Jump Research; engineering and design teams; and the Applied Research for Community Health through Engineering and Simulation (Jump ARCHES) program.

The idea? Placing these teams under one roof would promote collaboration across disciplines, which would in turn serve as a catalyst for innovation.

Here, there are no offices, just open workstations. Glass walls can be shifted to form temporary project rooms to enhance collaboration, or be collapsed to improve workflow. “It’s a very dynamic space,” Carter says. “It’s a really conducive space for people to collaborate.”

Breaking the Silo Mentality
As a broad manifestation of many specialized branches, healthcare has always faced a unique challenge: how can a patchwork of multiple disciplines, with sometimes differing agendas, thrive collectively? In this sense, the “silo mentality” has traditionally been an obstacle, as the fragmented nature of the healthcare system has often prevented the delivery of coordinated care. The question then becomes how to break down those silos and instill a more integrated approach.

Dr. Tillery, for one, is well aware of this challenge. “We believe that silos enable an insular mindset, and may reduce our ability to see other solutions that might not have been obvious through the lens of traditional healthcare,” he says. “My experience with silos is that, while they might help an individual, it comes at the cost of a wider humanity perspective.”

From a research and funding standpoint, there’s always a benefit to collaboration, he suggests, citing Jump ARCHES as a prime example. “In this funded endowment, we’re pairing engineers with clinicians to challenge them to think differently.”

Through a partnership with the Health Care Engineering Systems Center at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Jump ARCHES teams are working to develop technologies for improved medical training and healthcare delivery. Last fall, for example, they debuted a new virtual reality tool to transform how medical school lectures are presented, as well as a robotic hand with tactile sensors for patients who have lost arm mobility. Such projects are evidence that there is no limit to innovation through collaboration, suggests Tillery. In fact, the two can be one and the same.

Transformation Through Teams
Having identified access to care as one of its primary challenges, OSF HealthCare is addressing the problem head-on with its rollout of Care Transformation. The organization-wide initiative seeks to transform the patient experience while increasing value and expanding access—centered around a team-based approach.

Care Transformation allows advanced practice providers, registered nurses and medical office assistants to deliver patient care to the full extent of their training, leaving physicians to focus on the more complex problems. It also expands the team to include behavioral health specialists, pharmacists, health coaches and complex care managers for more holistic, comprehensive care—an added bonus to the patient.

“When I think of the Care Transformation initiative… at OSF, it has really utilized every aspect of innovation,” says Tillery. For instance, the simulation and education group is creating simulation events for better training; the Innovation Partnerships team brings in solutions through external collaborations; Healthcare Analytics has created electronic dashboards to better understand progress towards key goals; initiatives like TeleHealth offer improvements to electronic medical records; human-centered designers offer a better understanding of patient needs; and the Performance Improvement division serves as the engine to coordinate the entire portfolio.

Better Patient Care
The Care Transformation model means a lot of change for the patient—all for the better, Tillery explains. Within primary care practices, for example, the pre-business planning process has been changed. Through specific targeting—whether it’s a patient with a disease like diabetes, a new patient to a practice, or one with high-risk diagnoses that create complexities in their care—practices are focusing first on pre-visit planning, as well as connecting with patients digitally or by phone prior to appointments, following up with patients on care, and reviewing medications and risk assessments.

“It really has helped our patients achieve a higher level of care and better outcomes—and reduced our no-show rates,” Tillery explains. In addition, small changes like the implementation of a “morning huddle” at the start of each day have improved same-day access to clinics by considering holes in schedules, provider availability and patient needs. In the first wave of these transformed clinics, Tillery notes dramatic improvements: higher screening goal attainment, increased patient growth rates and more efficient teamwork. And these changes are easily traceable via the tools coming out of HealthCare Analytics.


 

Enriching the Data
“The predictive modeling that we have done is really exciting work,” says Mark Hohulin, senior vice president of the HealthCare Analytics division. “It’s going to make a huge impact.”

The vision for Healthcare Analytics is to enable and enhance OSF’s analytics capabilities to support a growing culture of data-driven and contextual decision-making. And as the organization continues to expand geographically, there is an increasing need to integrate additional data from electronic medical records (EMR) and a range of external sources.

“Our Healthcare Analytics team handles the integration of internal data from our EMR system and other transactional systems at OSF, as well as… Medicare, other payer claims, and other systems outside of OSF,” Hohulin notes. “We integrate that data within our data warehouse so we can… help with analysis of specific areas to assist leaders and physicians in improving their decision-making.”

Within the Care Transformation initiative, for instance, the group has developed a specialized dashboard that clearly identifies the population of patients who are being impacted. “We’re able to monitor the number of patients being served at any of the practices, new patients that may be established over time, how many patients are going to the emergency department, or how many patients are being admitted… so we can have interactions and discussions to help improve their care,” Hohulin adds. “We’re able to connect a lot of patient activity and utilization back to the practice and back to the specific provider—to improve the patient care and outcomes later.”

By developing tools that allow access to very detailed information and predictive modeling, the team “enriches the data,” Hohulin says, by preparing and modeling information that doesn’t exist within the EMR itself. For example, predictive modeling can identify patients across the health system with higher risks of being readmitted within 30 days. “Clinicians and discharge planners can then work with these patients and put interventions in place to reduce readmission.”

Everyday Novelty
If innovation can be understood as a process with a million moving parts, success is the effective integration of those activities into a culture that both informs and projects a company’s core values—such that everything under its name lives and breathes a glint of novelty. For Tillery, OSF’s success is evident within the everyday language of its traditional leaders. “[Innovation] has become part of their natural language now,” he says. “It’s not a foreign concept.”

Across the health system, employees come to OSF Innovation looking for solutions—using the Health Analytics and Performance Improvement divisions in a multitude of ways, Tillery offers. The Innovation Partnerships team has brought digital solutions to the forefront; simulation training has reduced medication errors; and targeted trainings for residents have reduced complications from procedures.

Most rewarding, says Warrens, are the stories coming back from the clinicians about how patients’ engagement with these innovative tools is helping them. “I also love listening to the entrepreneurs’ ideas,” he adds. “All the technologies we look at work. It’s really about our ability to adopt and change the way we deliver care that determines whether these solutions are successful or not.”

“Innovation has become a central component of our healthcare system,” Tillery declares. “It’s not looked upon as this ‘glittery’ thing that sits off away from the rest of the healthcare leadership team. That’s what’s been most gratifying.” iBi

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