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The Exec: Innovation is a Team Sport for Jesse Goodwin

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   April 11, 2023

The Medical University of South Carolina's chief innovation officer says innovation is part of the health system's culture, and something in which everyone takes part.

Jesse Goodwin sees innovation not as a technology issue, but as a mindset.

"Everyone in the organization has something that doesn't work ideally," she says. "We want them to use creative solutions to address those pain points. We're empowering them to take that next step and come up with innovative solutions."

Goodwin is the chief innovation officer at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), helping to develop and guide innovation strategy for one of only two institutions in the country designated as a National Telehealth Center of Excellence. MUSC is an academic medical center, occupying that unique space between a stand-alone university and a health system, so her efforts and goals are both clinical and educational.

"Innovation is center to the MUSC enterprise," she says. "It's in our mission, vision, and values and the first goal of our strategic plan. Other health systems might play lip service to innovation, but we're all being charged here to be innovative."

"It's not a white-coat thing," she adds. "This is in our culture."

Goodwin, who was vice president of development for the Zucker Institute of Applied Neurosciences and director of the medical device practice of a Boston-based intellectual property consulting firm before taking on the CIO role at MUSC, knows a thing or two about technology. Her biography on the MUSC website notes that she's an engineer by training, and she designed a transcatheter aortic valve replacement device for her senior thesis in college.

Jesse Goodwin, chief innovation officer at the Medical University of South Carolina. Photo courtesy MUSC.

But while technology can, at times, be innovative, innovation isn't always about technology.

"Technology is often not the right route to take," she says. "We're not just looking for new apps [or devices]. We need to work harder to expand the definition."

Goodwin says she wants to separate innovation from technology so that people will think beyond just finding an app or tool to solve a problem. In doing so, she says, they'll take a closer look at workflows and other factors that either contribute to the problem or can be altered to solve it. They'll get a better feel of how innovation can lead to transformation.

"That brings more people into the conversation," she says.

That can also make an answer more complex. In her profile, Goodwin notes that research is a driving force in many healthcare advances, though not the only one. In an industry like healthcare, which is undergoing a transformation of its own to value-based care, the patient experience is taking on a much bigger role. Providers must pay more attention to the patients as a collaborator in healthcare and look at new ideas that include engagement and the use of data supplied from the patient.

Goodwin agrees that healthcare innovation took a leap forward during the pandemic, when healthcare organizations jumped at any opportunity to shift to virtual care, often taking leaps of faith with ideas and technology that would have taken years to plan out and prove. The pendulum is swinging back now, toward a better balance of virtual and in-person care, though the emphasis on consumer preference and opportunities to improve access to care and target social determinants of health remains.

"The opportunities [created by the pandemic] really did give us some new ideas," she says.

This includes new platforms for behavioral health treatment, a key pain point coming out of the pandemic, both in the number of people needing access to care and the shortage of providers offering it. Patient access to the health system's digital front door is also a popular topic, as is patient-friendly reporting (finding ways to integrate the patient voice and patient engagement with the medical record) and precision medicine.

A program of which Goodwin is especially proud is the STEM-Coaching and Resources for Entrepreneurial Women (STEM-CREW) program, established last year in a collaboration with the College of Charleston to boost the number of women entrepreneurs in the medical science field. The program is supported by the $2.4 million grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

"Studies have shown that women start companies with 50% less money and raise 66% less capital than their male counterparts," Goodwin said in a press release announcing the program's launch. "There are a lot of hypotheses as to why this divide exists, and it includes things like implicit bias as well as the willingness of women to seek funds within their own network of contacts. These are barriers to success for women who have already decided to pursue entrepreneurship. The CREW program hopes to address both through coaching, mentorship, and other programmatic support."

Goodwin says MUSC's culture of innovation will certainly help in this effort.

"Not surprisingly, there a big gender disparity at all stages of the process," she says, noting the MUSC was one of the first in the nation to track the gender representation. "But over the last four or five years, we've seen a strong culture of entrepreneurship taking off. This gives us a chance to flip the switch and really create some new opportunities."

That said, there are challenges. The sluggish economy is playing havoc with many healthcare organizations, forcing them to curb expenses and put their focus on workforce issues. Goodwin says the impact is felt everywhere, from nursing to the IT department. New ideas and platforms need to have a solid business case behind them, with a clear definition of value and a good ROI.

"It puts a lot of attention on the organization's efforts to support innovation," she says. "We don’t have the resources—or the access to resources—that we used to have."

And that's where transformation may be more important than technology. It forces creative minds to find ways to solve problems and improve operations and outcomes without sinking money into new technology.

"Innovation is central to the true MUSC enterprise, and it's never going to go away," Goodwin says. "We actually take it as a goal, just like we do with quality metrics."

“Everyone in the organization has something that doesn't work ideally. We want them to use creative solutions to address those pain points. We're empowering them to take that next step and come up with innovative solutions.”

Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation, Technology, and Pharma for HealthLeaders.


Jesse Goodwin is the chief innovation officer at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), one of two federally recognized National Telehealth Centers of Excellence.

An engineer by training, she says innovation and technology have to be separate, so that people think first about workflows and transformation before they consider a new tool or software.

Goodwin says innovation is part of MUSC's culture, fostered from the top down and shared by everyone. 

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