Skip to main content
Business transformation

Why every healthcare organization needs an innovation incubator

Article Mar. 13, 2023 Read time: min

Health and wellness are fundamental to every aspect of our lives, which makes the quality and accessibility of healthcare deeply personal. So, when 89% of patients in the U.S. say they believe the healthcare system needs an overhaul,1 it’s not just another statistic—it’s a signal flare.

The traditional boundaries of healthcare are gone. The patient experience no longer starts and ends with brick-and-mortar healthcare locations. Consumers have become accustomed to the personalized, easy-to-consume, and predictable experiences offered in retail and other industries and expect a similar experience along every touchpoint of their healthcare journeys.

As patients increasingly want to be heard and involved in their healthcare decisions, patient satisfaction is measured by what they experience along a continuum of touchpoints: in person, remote, and digital with self-guided options. One bad experience, whether remote, digital, or in person, can impact the entire care experience and an organization’s brand.

So, how can organizations optimize patient-provider interactions and deliver care experiences that exceed patient expectations?

Whether it’s a telehealth appointment or securing electronic health records, leaders in healthcare are leveraging IT to streamline operations, enable cost savings, and empower clinical teams to deliver best-in-class patient care. As technologists, it’s our responsibility to take on this challenge of dramatically improving the way providers and patients interact. But before modernization can happen, healthcare organizations must first define their mission, understand who they’re trying to serve, and develop the governance required to accomplish their digital transformation goals. For this, I believe in a practical approach that enables providers to deliver quick wins while accelerating innovation.

As technologists, it’s our responsibility to take on this challenge of dramatically improving the way providers and patients interact.

Align your North Star

Any digital transformation journey must be grounded in your organization’s values and the realities and challenges of its constituents. The constituents, or patients in this case, act as the North Star, anchoring everyone in the organization around a common mission. Once you’ve defined your North Star, you’ll have a lens through which to analyze the data and determine if your transformation efforts are making a meaningful impact. As technology evolves, it's easy to get distracted and lose focus. The one question I always ask is, "How will this new capability tie back to the North Star?"

For example, Kyndryl’s mission in healthcare is to help healthcare organizations humanize the patient and caregiver experience and create a seamless journey. The driving factor—our North Star—is the patient. So, when we look at data, we measure our impact on the patient experience to determine if what we’re doing is driving the desired outcome.

Establish your innovation incubator

Once you’ve aligned to your North Star, the next step is to develop an innovation incubator. The innovation incubator can be used as a governance structure to execute a process that is outcome-focused, instills strong accountability, optimizes technology ROI, fosters a culture of curiosity, builds the innovation muscle, and shares best practices. It must be at the center of your organization and have executive sponsorship. The incubator is made up of three parts: 

  • The innovation council: The innovation council is a governing body that comprises a diverse group of stakeholders who guide the organization through digital transformation (for example, IT teams, care teams, patients, and third-party entities who want to be part of the mission).  
  • Innovation partners: Organizations will need to lean into their partnerships to successfully drive digital transformation. This can include cloud partners, software partners, and service entities who help challenge how things can be optimized to maximize efficiency.
  • The innovation engine: The purpose of the innovation engine is to capture and vet ideas without judgment, identify projects with committed resources, and graduate, refine, sunset, and approve projects.

The innovation incubator must include all three parts. One part without the others runs the risk of creating a culture of “no,” which is the exact opposite of what we’re trying to create while working towards digital transformation.

Quick wins and long-term solutions

The innovation incubator will provide a forum to create and deliver new capabilities. However, to be relevant within your organization, there’s constant pressure to deliver results now. This pressure presents a unique challenge: when you have multiple projects and they’re all funded in silos, they become one-offs, they don’t integrate, the data can’t be shared, and ultimately, they don’t scale. So, how do we nurture and execute agile quick wins? We create a standard framework that is made up of an agreed-upon evaluation scorecard, design principles, and defined outcomes.

When you have multiple projects and they’re all funded in silos, they become one-offs, they don’t integrate, the data can’t be shared, and ultimately, they don’t scale.

The last piece, which is key to the entire journey, is the roadmap. For any successful digital transformation, it’s necessary to establish a 3 to 5-year digital transformation roadmap that brings it all together. The roadmap should include infrastructure transformation, data management, ecosystem scaling, and key initiative execution.

Looking ahead

As technology continues to evolve, it is important to never lose sight of how new capabilities can be leveraged to improve the patient experience. An innovation incubator provides the culture and governance needed to accelerate innovation, establish a roadmap to execute long-term challenges, and deliver quick wins. Our responsibility now is to overcome barriers and take advantage of the technological innovations and changes that are happening within the healthcare system.

Read more from Trent Sanders about how hybrid cloud technology can improve healthcare.

Trent Sanders is Vice President of U.S. Healthcare and Life Sciences at Kyndryl.

1  Mending Healthcare in America, Wolters Kluwer, 2020