Dr. David Skarda
Medical director, center for value-based surgery, Intermountain Healthcare
Skarda has led efforts to gain a deeper understanding of the total cost of care for surgical procedures. He partnered with analytics company Empiric Health to bring artificial intelligence into the process to comb through supply chain data, claims and other information to create new metrics for the health system and its insurance arm. The tool has also proved valuable during the COVID-19 outbreak as Intermountain develops protocols for resuming elective procedures.
How do you identify opportunities for innovation?
My area of innovation interest is in the identification and implementation of opportunities to improve the value, both clinical and financial, of the care we deliver. I look for these opportunities in physician-level variation in practice patterns. Clinicians, especially surgeons, are often independent thinkers and performers. Although they train in the same, or similar, training programs and leave training with relatively similar clinical practice patterns, they very rapidly gravitate toward practice patterns that work well for them and align with their personal ideals.
What advice do you have for people who know how to get an idea in front of managers but may be afraid of failing?
Managers are uniformly interested in 1) doing what is right for patients, and 2) doing it for less cost. If you can define your idea in a way that accomplishes those two main goals, managers listen. They may not be in a position to immediately resource your idea/project. However, they will do so when they can.
How do you stay focused on innovation during a crisis?
During crisis care (when we are unable to care for all patients and we are allocating resources) it can be difficult to focus on and encourage innovation that does not directly impact the care for the problem that is causing the crisis (currently COVID-19). However, when our organizations are not directly involved in crisis care, the impacts of the pandemic can create a heightened sense of need for innovation that both improves outcomes and decreases cost. Organizations can stay focused on and encourage innovation by clearly describing problems and challenges within the organization that need innovative solutions. A clear description of the problem(s) can serve as a powerful incentive for innovative thinkers to try and solve the problem.