Community hospital starts its own patient-centered innovation center

Nick Dawson, who moderated last week’s Great Challenges Googe+ Hangout on medical innovation, is also the new Executive Director of Innovation at Johns-Hopkins Sibley Memorial hospital. He’s helped to run a new onsite Innovation Hub, a cross-disciplinary design studio set to launch this fall at Sibley. We talked to him about the Hub and its goals.

TEDMED: What are the Hub’s goals?

Dawson: The Hub will primarily foster a culture of patience and human centered innovation for everybody in the organization to take part in problem solving, improving processes and thinking about how we do our day-to-day work. The Hub will also engage in cutting and leading edge innovation and design work in health care to improve everything from patient experience to clinical process flow. We maybe even invent new products and services.  We’ll be changing culture plus doing classic innovation and design work.

Sibley's Innovation Hub features new perspectives: Pictured: Nick Dawson and Joe Sigrid

Sibley’s Innovation Hub features new perspectives: Pictured: Nick Dawson and Joe Sigrin


TEDMED: Why now?

Dawson: There are some pragmatic realities. Healthcare costs have risen. Clinical quality, despite really well intentioned and impactful work, can be improved.  We may not have enough providers the future,  Above all, it’s become part of our collective discussion to question if we are delivering truly human centered healthcare and meeting the needs of our population, making them healthier and keeping them from being admitted to the hospital and from having serious chronic conditions. We’re having that conversation as country, and we ought to have that conversation within health systems.

TEDMED: Do recent statistics about poor outcomes in the U.S. fuel the fire, despite all the money we spend on healthcare?

Dawson: They are disappointing, and I’m certainly one to help beat that drum and say we need to be doing a better job. At the same time, [numbers] can be misleading because we really do some things incredibly well.  We pioneer techniques and procedures and we’re innovative as a medical community. For example, laproscopic procedures were developed in part right here at Sibley Hospital. A lot of new drug therapies come out of American pharmaceuticals.  So, while we do need to be having a serious discussion about outcomes, we should be proud taht we do have a high performing healthcare system.

TEDMED: You’ll have an embedded innovation team. Who’s on it?

The idea of “team” is loosely defined for us. Dr. Chip Davis, the CEO here at SIbley, and his team deserve the credit for championing the Hub’s vision, and having it be the first community hospital in the nation to have an embedded, well-thought through and resourced innovation center.  There are two of us running the Sibley Innovation Hub, myself and a colleague, Joe Sigrin, who is our Innovation Experience Advisor, and an advisory board.  We’re also developing a physician advisory board to provide clinical direction, and then we have the goal of trying to create widespread culture change. If we’re successful in our job, the whole organization will be part of the team and will be doing mini-projects and even full blown design on their own. We have a wonderful space I which to going to grow that army of design thinkers. It’s a space for everybody that comes into Sibley, whether they’re staff, medical staff or patients.

TEDMED: Will patients be involved?

Dawson: One of our driving goals is including patients in the process, and not just as end users, but as part of the design team.  Frankly, that’s the only way innovation is going to work. Once you co-design, it just feel so right.  It’s the only way that makes sense.

TEDMED: Who or what do you credit with launching a design revolution in healthcare?

That’s a fun one to ponder. There are the IDEOs and the Stanfords; we’ve seen design and innovation centers in many large academic institutions. They gave prominence to the idea.

Another partner, though, and one who ought to get more credit, is patients, those who have said, ‘My health and my condition, and my experience and my interaction with my doctor — that’s my responsibility, and here’s what I’m going to do to own it.  I may have to hack the system.’  They’re designing for themselves ultimately.

And then there are nurses.  All you have to do is shadow any nurse and they have hacks and workarounds for everything.  They don’t call it design thinking, but they have empathy for their patients and their peers and they’re always thinking about how to make things just a little bit better. We see that in doctors, too. Some doctor said, ‘I’m going to try this laproscopic thing, and I’m going to invent a prototype for it.’

There’s a culture in health that who has always existed.  It’s just now becoming a formal process.

– Interview by Stacy Lu