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Innovation Inspires AHA to Overhaul its Approach to Business

By Mandy Roth  
   September 07, 2018

New initiative reflects changes occurring in the American healthcare landscape.

When the American Hospital Association (AHA) launched its new AHA Center for Health Innovation this week, it not only unveiled a much-needed resource for its members, it signaled a new way of business for the not-for-profit association that serves nearly 5,000 hospitals, health systems and others.

The new initiative involves refocusing the roles of many employees, a sweeping overhaul that will encompass 150 individuals in its 500-member workforce, along with some new hires.

I spoke with Andrew Shin, chief operating officer of the new enterprise, about why AHA is making this change and what it means to hospitals and health systems. Following are highlights from our conversation, lightly edited for space and clarity.

HealthLeaders: What kind of resources is AHA dedicating to the Center for Health Innovation?

Shin: The innovation transformation agenda that the AHA is now advancing is an all-hands-on-deck agenda. It spans our policy and advocacy staff, our field engagement teams, our personal membership groups, as well as our membership relations.

We've taken our existing business units and organized them around this innovation and transformation agenda. That includes our performance improvement work that has happened at HRET [the Health Research and Educational Trust], our population health work, our applied research agenda, a lot of work we're doing around quality improvement and safety, and our commercial activities, which have been based out of the Health Forum. So the agenda is an AHA-wide transformation innovation agenda.

In terms of employees, it's going to [involve about] 150 employees. These aren't all new positions; it's reordering some of the people who were already here.

HL: Why now?

Shin: Part of the reason that we formed the center was because our members are asking us how do we deliver value to a patient in a constantly changing environment? And, most importantly, how do we do this in a sustainable and scalable way?

Until now there has not been an organization or even a group of organizations that have successfully brought innovation in the healthcare system to scale in a way that is both stainable and contextual in terms of meeting hospitals where they are on their journey. For us, the opportunity is to be that catalyst—that convener or network that brings the disparate innovation that's happening all around the country together and share leading practices.

HL: What trends are driving this change?

Shin: This is a time of great disruption. That disruption has yielded intense opportunity, but also challenges in transforming care, and advancing health and wellbeing. The entrance into healthcare in the past few months, much less the last couple of years, has really represented a new paradigm shift. Technology companies and startups are starting to use a consumer-focused and human-centered design approach to delivering healthcare services and improving health and wellbeing.

HL: How does that disruption impact hospitals and health systems?

Shin: This is a time like none other where you are starting to see intense pressure from the private sector. I think that pressure is creating opportunities for hospitals and health systems, in particular, to really rethink how care is delivered, what their role is in the community, both as an anchor institution, but also as a nexus for a clinical science, performance improvement, and community health.

Our membership hospitals and health systems are now being challenged in completely new ways. This is not just how to advance clinical breakthroughs, it's about starting to reduce the disparities for underserved communities and aging populations. And how do we start to align financial incentives with new care delivery payment models?

It's really also about how we start to think about delivering care that meets patients where they are in ways that increase their access and affordability outside of the walls of hospitals in their homes, through their smartphones, even in their cars.

New Offerings

Asked about some of the center's new offerings for members, Shin offered details about a number of programs, several of which were piloted over the past year. Among the highlights:

  • 90-day bootcamps that utilize a structured, human-centered design approach to help participants get to a "go or no-go" decision about whether to move forward with an initiative. Coaches include specially trained AHA employees working in partnership with the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, Durham, N.C.
  • An entry level course in innovation, that has not yet been announced
  • An Innovation Challenge with winners announced at the AHA's Leadership Summit next July in San Diego

Mandy Roth is the innovations editor at HealthLeaders.

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