Innovations in Integrated Health

Nov 30, 2011, 12:28 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

BY DR. JASON HWANG, Executive Director of Healthcare, Innosight Institute

Jason Hwang, MD, MBA is an internal medicine physician and executive director of healthcare at Innosight Institute, a nonprofit social innovation think tank he co-founded with Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, the world’s foremost authority on disruptive innovation. Through a grant from the Pioneer Portfolio, Dr. Hwang has worked to apply the principles of disruptive innovation to the health care delivery system. Disruptive innovations occur when new business or delivery models displace overly complex and costly, expertise-intensive models. Highlighting work from the Pioneer-funded studies, Dr. Hwang recently described the need for innovation in health care in a post on CNBC.com and was featured in a Human Ingenuity series on Forbes.com.

Why have select integrated health systems outpaced their peers across nearly all quality and cost measures? More than one year ago, Innosight Institute–a nonprofit think tank co-founded by innovation expert Professor Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School –set out to answer this question by identifying the critical factors and decisions that led to successful, integrated health systems.

Our findings are documented in the paper "Disruptive Innovation in Integrated Care Delivery Systems," which is the culmination of research on seven different organizations representing a wide spectrum of health systems around the country. Major observations and findings include: 

  • Successful innovations that may be incorporated into today’s ongoing integration efforts, including mergers, accountable care organizations, and virtual assemblages being formed to participate in bundled payment programs and pay-for-performance contracts;
  • The importance of expanding the scopes of practice of various clinical staff, including nurse practitioners and physician assistants, to ensure access to quality care through disruptive delivery models;
  • Best practices in the use of electronic health records and health IT that should be implemented across all health systems as stimulus funds promote their widespread adoption.

Identifying these success factors is a crucial step forward in paving the way for similar organizations to be cultivated elsewhere and ensuring that one day every American will have access to high quality, affordable care.

Innosight Institute is also pleased to release its latest case study in conjunction with this project, which documents the experience of Sentara Healthcare in Virginia as it prepares for significant changes in how health care will be delivered and priced in the future. Pilots focusing on chronic disease management, bundled payments for procedures, and a patient-centered medical home are underway, yet Sentara is also acutely aware of the challenges these new delivery models pose to its successful, hospital-led health care system.

Not content with simply reacting to change, Sentara also created a test bed for wellness initiatives by targeting employee health with a program that includes a $500-per-employee rebate and has resulted in a return on investment of $6 for every $1 invested in the program. Meanwhile, the organization’s health plan, Optima Health, has sought to grow its consumer-directed, high-deductible health plans by first developing information and pricing tools for patients.

I invite you to read about Sentara and our other case study subjects: HealthPartners, Lancaster General Health, Presbyterian Healthcare Services, Group Health Cooperative, Grand Valley Health Plan, and Baystate Health (forthcoming).

Finally, I offer my special thanks to Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio, whose financial support made this work possible.