Senior vice president of behavioral health services, Atrium Health
Under Whitecotton’s leadership, Atrium has made significant strides in care for patients with behavioral health needs, including greater integration into overall medical care. She pushed telepsychiatry capabilities to 22 acute-care emergency departments in Atrium’s network. She also spearheaded the Behavioral Health Integration program—a scalable model in which a team of psychotherapists and health coaches collaborate with primary-care doctors to virtually manage the mental health needs of their patient panels. Initial results from the program were positive, including a in 7% drop in avoidable ED visits and 27% drop in in-person visits in 2019. As of June 2020, the program is implemented in 51 clinics, supporting 240 providers.
How do you identify opportunities for innovation?
Albert Szent-Gyorgyi said it best, “A discovery is said to be an accident meeting a prepared mind.” Innovation is not always about invention; it is more often about improving a process or being first to market with a proven idea. Be curious, question everything, look at every process and ask, how can we improve the value of this work we are doing?
What advice do you have for people who know how to get an idea in front of managers but may be afraid of failing?
Failure is part of the process; if you are afraid to fail you are afraid to try. The innovation journey requires an openness to both success and failure; the two together drive the best solutions. If you are designing solutions that bring value; senior leaders will pay attention.
How do you stay focused on innovation during a crisis?
The pandemic is an opportunity for innovation and indeed, I have seen it drive incredible solutions within our own healthcare system; because we dared to ask, “What if.” For example, “what if” we stood up a virtual hospital and treated patients who tested positive for COVID-19 in their homes, working hard to keep them out of the hospital? And the COVID-19 virtual hospital was born at Atrium Health. Innovation is key to our survival.