Skip to main content


3 Leaders; 3 Approaches to Innovation

By Mandy Roth  
   October 01, 2019

Innovation needs to tackle service delivery and business models, reduce labor costs, and create a financial model that will keep people well, say executives attending the HealthLeaders CEO Exchange.

PARK CITY, Utah — What's the best approach to healthcare innovation? It depends on who you ask.

At the HealthLeaders CEO Exchange in Utah last week, we asked numerous participants to share their insights with our readers. While the strategies are as varied as the people we spoke with, one thing is clear: hospitals and health systems are learning from each other and want to hear how others are forging ahead with their innovation initiatives.

Some perspectives were revealed last week in Big Innovation Ideas for Smaller Hospitals; today we disclose three strategic ideas from executives at Yale New Haven Health, New Haven, Connecticut; and Bryan Health in Lincoln, Nebraska; and Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, Utah.

1. Focus on Service Delivery and Business Models

"While product innovation continue to bring much needed change for several patients, service delivery and business model innovations have the opportunity to impact millions of lives in our healthcare systems. We have much more to do in this realm."

—Prathibha Varkey, MD, MBBS, MPH, CEO, Yale New Haven Health Northeast Medical Group, which includes more than 1,000 clinicians and 2,200 employees across 120 sites in Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island; and senior vice president, Yale New Haven Health, New Haven, Connecticut

2. Address Need to Reduce Labor Costs

"I feel that innovation in our field is missing the mark because so far I'm not seeing very many innovative ideas or changes that really reduce the cost of healthcare and especially reduce the labor side of healthcare, which to me is amongst the biggest challenges. A lot of the innovation coming into our field seems to add costs and add people. I would hope that companies and others who are working on innovation are looking for ways to take costs out and reduce on the labor side." Regarding back office solutions featuring artificial intelligence that are designed to accomplish these objectives, Russel says, "I think that's a great start; we need a whole lot more of that."

Kim Russel, president and CEO of Bryan Health based in Lincoln, Nebraska, a nonprofit health system with three hospitals and other facilities that serves patients in Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, and Missouri

3. Devise a Financial Model that Keeps People Well

"I think the most important part about figuring out what to do with innovation is to understand what your goals are. You can innovate in a lot of different ways and in a lot of different areas. At Intermountain Healthcare, we're trying to innovate specifically around our mission of helping people live the healthiest life possible. And that focuses our innovation on [taking] full economic and clinical accountability for the people we serve. So the innovations we're pushing are around payment models [and] contracting—essentially taking full risk payments first, and then innovating it into a new delivery system that can keep people well and have a financial model that that supports keeping people well. So all of our innovation is focused in that funnel. You've got to know what your end goal is to really be a good innovator."

—Dan Liljenquist, JD, senior vice president and chief strategy officer, Intermountain Healthcare and former Utah state senator

For more coverage of the HealthLeaders CEO Exchange, see How CEOs Approach Their Critical Choices: 3 Insights and visit again soon for additional stories.

Editor's Note: This story has been changed to update the number of clinicians, employees, and practice sites at Yale New Haven Northeast Medical Group.

“You've got to know what your end goal is to really be a good innovator.”

Mandy Roth is the innovations editor at HealthLeaders.

Photo credit: David Hartig

Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.