Innovation isn't just finding a way to do something better. It's finding a way to do something important that couldn't be done before.
That's the level achieved by three healthcare organizations, according to the expert panel judging the first Innovation in Healthcare Information Technology Awards, sponsored by MODERN HEALTHCARE and Cisco Systems, a company specializing in the routers and switches used in building computer networks.
This year's 53 entries had to have an innovative foundation of computer networking and information technology, but what mattered was the impact of that foundation on clinicians, managers and patients.
The Brigham Integrated Clinical System already has garnered a number of industry awards for its technical wizardry, and a Florida-based company is trying to adapt the technological breakthroughs at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital for the open market (June 24, 1996, p. 74).
But as the accompanying profile shows, the impact of the BICS technology is its continual payoff as measured by actions taken or avoided by clinicians in their care of sick people.
The marriage of two technological innovations at Jacobi Medical Center in New York not only further streamlined the ordering of medicines but redefined the roles of highly trained pharmacists who had spent most of their time pouring pills into cups.
And the partnership of Harborview Medical Center, Seattle, with airplane builders took the guesswork out of a calculation that can make all the difference in treating burns.
In winning the award for return on investment, Brigham was the best at showing demonstrable benefits supported by financial documentation and cost/benefit analysis.
In the open-ended category of innovation, Jacobi best showed how computer networking and technology were used to creatively solve problems -- generating new ideas and thinking "out of the box."
In capturing the award for patient-care impact, Harborview best exemplifies how networking and technology can improve health outcomes and patient care.
The winners receive a $5,000 donation to the institution's foundation or the chief executive officer's charity of choice.
The judges for the program were:
Adrienne Edens, vice president of information systems at Mercy Healthcare Sacramento (Calif.).
John McMeekin, CEO of Crozer-Keystone Health System, Springfield, Pa.
Patricia Skarulis, vice president and chief information officer of Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Chicago.
Richard Skinner, CIO of Providence Health System, Portland, Ore.
Timothy Sullivan, senior vice president and CIO of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Oakland, Calif.
Jay Toole, partner with Ernst & Young and national director of its healthcare consulting practice, Atlanta.