Innovation in Emergency Medicine: Harvesting the Ideas, Growing the Passion, and Getting it Done

Posted on Tue, Apr 22, 2014

innovationThis post is part of EmCare’s 4-part Innovation series where we highlight what innovation means to members of EmCare’s leadership. Follow this series each Tuesday to discover our commitment to innovation in health care.

By Kirk Jensen, M.D.

When people hear the term “innovation,” they often think of something brand new, something previously unheard, or the novel experience that comes from an “aha!” moment or insight. This can be an important component of an innovation process. However, innovation should also involve a commitment to basics - a reimagining of proven principles or a rededication to a proven system.

Innovation can and should focus on implementation and execution. When you look closely at innovation at the national or individual practice level, it’s not enough to have an innovative idea – it has to have a strong execution plan. It has to be widely and readily available. It has to be commercially viable.

For example, the demand capacity and predictive modeling program is familiar to a number ofPatient Flow people. Innovation comes into play and centers on the following: what is the best approach or program and how do you deploy it? How do you successfully use it to optimize the practice?

What are the key constraints, and how can we innovate our way around or through these constraints?

Initially, the innovation work proceeds along two significant streams or tracks. One of them is recognizing the current programs that are truly innovative and useful; and the other is how to diffuse, rapidly and successfully, the innovation. Another significant stream or track is: how can we harvest the “cool ideas” that are already being developed at the local or regional level? How can we recognize those ideas, harvest them, build out the appropriate toolkit, and deploy them region-wide or companywide?

I think there is a tremendous opportunity to look at the demand capacity modeling of patient flow, analyze the incoming streams of patient flow by severity, by hour of the day, and by day of the week. From there we can work on appropriately mapping our resources to these incoming patient flows. It gives us a wonderful opportunity to design and model the “ideal” clinical team and its makeup for an individual practice site the optimal combination of physician coverage, mid-level coverage, nursing, and scribe coverage. We can look at building out demand capacity modeling tools for anesthesia, surgery and other clinical service lines.

EmCare, from the top down, is really committed to this – getting the big ideas organized, implemented and shared nationwide. This is not a flavor of the month program. We think that fostering a culture of innovation and a process for innovation will allow us to deliver the kind of care we would all like to deliver, and provide us with a compelling and competitive advantage both in the marketplace and in recruiting.

I think it is often difficult on an individual level to figure out how to get one’s ideas to a location or to a level where they can be appreciated ---and where they can be deployed.

The EmCare Innovation strategy and approach provides individuals and groups a chance to do just that. In addition, it benefits not just EmCare, but our follow clinicians, our hospital partners and, best of all, the millions of patients we treat each year.

Kirk JensenKirk B. Jensen, M.D., MBA, FACEP, is Chief Medical Officer for BestPractices, Inc., an affiliate of EmCare. He is a leader in practice management, patient flow and clinical care. Author of numerous articles and three books, Leadership for Smooth Patient Flow (2007 ACHE Hamilton Award winner), Hardwiring Flow, and The Hospital Executive’s Guide to Emergency Department Management, coach and mentor for E.D.’s across the country, and acclaimed speaker, Dr. Jensen has twice been honored as the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) Speaker of the Year. Dr. Jensen served on the expert panel and site examination team of Urgent Matters, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation initiative focusing on elimination of E.D. crowding and preservation of the healthcare safety net. Faculty member of the ACEP management academy and The Studer Group, chair and faculty member for the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), writer and presenter for HealthLeaders Media, Dr. Jensen shares expertise on patient safety, patient flow, operational strategies, error reduction, and change management. Dr. Jensen holds a Bachelor’s Degree in biology from the University of Illinois (Champaign) and a Medical Degree from the University of Illinois (Chicago). He completed a residency in Emergency Medicine at the University of Chicago and an MBA at the University of Tennessee. Attend Dr. Jensen's presentation, "Winning Physician Buy-In" at the 2014 Patient Flow Summit. Details here:  To read Dr. Jensen's latest whitepaper, click here:


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