VHA’s Innovation Ecosystem: Operationalizing Innovation in Health Care
Innovation has been widely advocated as the solution to U.S. health care’s rising costs and unsatisfying outcomes, and an abundance of innovative health care products and practices have been developed in recent years. Most have neither produced dramatic improvements in care nor spread at the pace and scale needed to transform care or materially bend the health care cost curve. The authors believe that health systems lack a model for operationalizing and scaling innovations, which must be built on a foundation capable of embracing meaningful changes, whether incremental or dramatic. Four critical elements support development and deployment of innovation in a health system: (1) workforce capacity to actualize innovation; (2) an organizational infrastructure that supports integrated, systematic, repeatable pathways for change; (3) an innovation-nurturing culture; and (4) strategic external partnerships and collaborations. Although perhaps an unlikely source, the Veterans Health Administration’s Innovation Ecosystem (VHA IE) provides a demonstrably successful and replicable model for supporting the entire life cycle of innovation in a large and highly complex integrated health system. The authors discuss how to apply this model in any integrated health system.