Five lessons on innovation from Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women's Hospitals

Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, the approach to fostering internal and external innovation is deliberate, thought out, and informed by years of experience. At HXD 2018 in Cambridge yesterday, Julia Jackson, managing director of Massachusetts General’s Healthcare Transformation Lab and Josie Elias, program manager for Brigham’s Digital Health Innovation Guide, broke down some of the most important lessons they’ve learned.

1. Be smart about internal vs external innovation

“A lot of what we talk about with enabling and empowering is about creating really interesting cross-system partnerships,” Jackson said. “Payers, providers, digital health startups, biotech, pharma--whatever it might be, no individual area of healthcare is doing a bang-up job of fixing it alone. So where do we think we need to go? These really creative partnerships.”

Brigham and Women’s and Massachusetts General both work with Pulse@MassChallenge, a Boston-based healthcare accelerator with a partnership-based model. They still foster internal innovation, but Jackson says she’s careful to investigate a matchmaking approach first.

“I have a pretty high threshold if you want to build something from scratch because I say ‘Well that’s awesome, but have you looked at the market?’” she said. “It’s innovating in digital health like crazy. And if you can tell me beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is really something the MGH, whose core competency is not computer science, should be building, great. Let’s go for it.”

And in between external and internal, at a system like Partners, is making sure there’s open communication from one hospital to another.

“How can we share what we’re doing?” Elias said. “Because I have the same problems [Jackson] does. I guarantee half of you in this room can name the same top 10 items we face every day at your institutions. So why are we doing that independently?”