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Top 10 Innovation Stories for 2020

Analysis  |  By Mandy Roth  
   December 29, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic fueled a new era of healthcare innovation and a thirst for information about innovative strategies and technologies to transform care delivery.

2020 launched a new era of healthcare innovation. While it will be remembered, always, as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was innovation that enabled hospitals and healthcare systems to forever transform the way care is delivered.  

Readers turned to HealthLeaders for information about the crisis. There was a thirst for articles about innovative strategies, as well as anything related to telehealth and virtual care. Many of our most popular innovation stories featured in-depth coverage showcasing how hospitals and health systems responded to the pandemic, such as Ochsner Health, Hospital for Special Surgery, Geisinger, and OSF HealthCare.

Not all attention was focused on COVID-19. Other topics that caught your attention included those that featured innovative leaders like Patrick Soon-Shiong, MD, and John Halamka, MD. There also was interest in articles about how to tame chronic disease with technology and a peek into the crystal ball as innovation leaders shared how to build the healthcare system of the future. Even stories about the basics were desirable, such as interoperability and who's winning the EMR market share wars.

In a year that challenged our industry in ways no one imagined one year ago, it has been an honor for HealthLeaders to serve as a resource for information and knowledge about healthcare innovation. Thank you for letting us tell your stories.

1. Anatomy of Ochsner Health's COVID-19 Response

Our leading innovation story of the year was posted early in the pandemic when New Orleans became one of the epicenters of the coronavirus outbreak. Ochsner Health President and CEO Warner L. Thomas, MBA, and Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Robert Hart, MD, FAAP, FACP, shared a deep look at how the multi-hospital, multi-state, nonprofit health system was innovating on the fly and navigating new waters, offering a blueprint for other hospitals and health systems as their own cases began to rise. While staffing presented the greatest challenge, "Communication is a huge issue," said Thomas. "We communicate essentially every single day with all of our team members around the system." Read more.

2. 4 Ways You Haven't Thought About Using Telehealth During the COVID-19 Pandemic

With the arrival of COVID-19, telehealth finally came of age. Suddenly, it became an essential tool in the healthcare armament against this pandemic, and has forever changed the way healthcare is delivered in the U.S. This article examines four ways health systems may not have thought about using this approach to care. Read more.

3. Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong on Career Inspirations, Healthcare Innovation, and the Lakers

Billionaire entrepreneur and surgeon Patrick Soon-Shiong, MD, CEO of health technology company NantWorks, owner of the Los Angeles Times and The San Diego Union-Tribune, and minority stakeholder in the Los Angeles Lakers, captured the attention of readers in an article written by HealthLeaders Finance Editor Jack O'Brien. The inventor of the cancer treat drug, Abraxane, who bought St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles as a surge hospital for COVID-19 patients, says, "I was always fascinated by the science and biology of the human body and how you can translate that into some impactful treatment." Read more.

4. Epic Dominates EMR Market Share Wars; Cerner Loses Ground

Our EMR market share wars story is a perennial favorite with readers. Based on the U.S. Hospital EMR Market Share Report from research and insights firm KLAS, during 2019, electronic medical record (EMR) company Epic muscled a greater share of the U.S. acute care market, while its closest competitor, Cerner, lost ground. MEDITECH was the only other vendor demonstrating positive gains. Read more.

5. Information Blocking: What to Know and How to Navigate Next Steps

With the long-awaited Cures Act Final Rule announced by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) in March, health system executives were suddenly facing interoperability compliance deadlines at the same time COVID-19 arrived. This report shares insights from ONC National Coordinator Don Rucker and other industry experts about how to navigate next steps. Read more.

6. MarinHealth Flips Virtual Care Model to Protect Staff From COVID-19

Early in the pandemic, MarinHealth was one of the first hospitals to flip the model on virtual care. Rather than using this mode of care to treat patients remotely, the 235-bed independent California hospital uses this approach inside the facility to minimize staff exposure to inpatients with COVID-19 and conserve personal protective equipment (PPE). While this use of telehealth has exploded during the COVID-19 crisis, a look at MarinHealth's innovative concept provided insights to others to help create a new approach to care. Read more.

7. 6 Ways to Build the Healthcare System of the Future

Twice during 2020 HealthLeaders convened a select group of health system executive thought leaders to discuss the topic, "Healthcare System of the Future." These virtual gatherings provide an opportunity for healthcare leaders to talk to their peers about the challenges they face and solutions they are devising to move their organizations forward. In his June keynote address to CEOs, CFOs, CMOs, and CNOs, as well as innovation and revenue cycle executives, John Halamka, MD, MS, president of the Mayo Clinic Platform, discussed the technology stepping stones that will pave the road forward. Read more. [To learn more about similar opportunities during 2021, contact; please use "HSOF 2021" in the subject line.]

8. All In for New York: Q&A With Hospital for Special Surgery CEO Lou Shapiro

As New York became the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak this spring, our Leadership Programs Director Jim Molpus spoke with Hospital for Special Surgery President and CEO Louis Shapiro. The highly rated orthopedic hospital transformed into a general acute care hospital as New York City grappled with the COVID emergency. Shapiro shared how he led the organization through the transition and five guiding principles: "Protect our staff, protect our patients, protect our organization, protect society, and communicate frequently and transparently." Read more.

9. How Children's Hospital Beds Factor Into COVID-19 Bed Capacity for Adults

In an innovative move to accommodate the surge of coronavirus patients at facilities designed for adults, the Children's Hospital Association (CHA) took a look at the beds children occupy in facilities designed for adults, where 50% of young patients are admitted. By directing younger patients to hospitals solely devoted to children's care, adult facilities could increase capacity for patients with coronavirus, which disproportionately impacts the adult population, said CHA President and CEO  Mark Wietecha, MS, MBA. Read more.

10. John Halamka, MD, Launches Mayo Clinic's 'Digital Data Business'

Halamka, who was also featured in our seventh most popular innovation article of 2020, made his debut in January as he was named president of the Mayo Clinic Platform, which offers a coordinated portfolio approach to create new ventures that take advantage of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, connected healthcare devices, and natural language processing. The physician and innovator shared his vision for the platform with our readers. Read more.

Other Popular Innovation Stories

We also invite you to explore these other innovation stories that were among the most popular with our readers during the past year:

“In a year that challenged our industry in ways no one imagined one year ago, it has been an honor for HealthLeaders to serve as a resource for information and knowledge about healthcare innovation. Thank you for letting us tell your stories.”

Mandy Roth is the innovations editor at HealthLeaders.


The most popular innovation stories featured in-depth coverage that showcased how hospitals and health systems were responding to the pandemic.

Readers were thirsty for information about telehealth and virtual care.

Ideas about technology to tame chronic diseases, building the healthcare system of the future, and interviews with leading innovators captured attention.

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