Health Catalyst Named 2019 Healthcare IT Corporate Innovator

utah himss chapterUtah HIMSS (UHIMSS) has named Health Catalyst the most innovative company for 2019. Dale Sanders, President of Technology, accepted the Healthcare IT Corporate Innovator award on behalf of Health Catalyst at the UHIMSS 2019 spring conference on May 17. Below are some thoughts Dale shared with the conference audience. 

Thank you for this award. It’s deeply appreciated and humbling. The moment you start believing you’re successful and innovative is the beginning of the end that you’re not [successful and innovative]. I have a hard time believing I or we are innovative. Much of what we do seems like common sense.

Let me talk about suitcases for a second. For those of you old enough to remember, suitcases didn’t always have wheels. Think about that for a second. Was it innovative to put wheels on suitcases or just plain old common sense that escaped the rest of us for 300 years?

In the R&D team at Health Catalyst, we have a cultural attribute of chronic, constructive, dissatisfaction. In that sort of culture are dozens of micro-nudges of innovation in healthcare that go on every day and have a giant and usually underappreciated impact on the final destination. Innovation, if it exists, almost never comes in revolutionary, giant shoves. It comes in hundreds of tiny nudges that you might not even notice. 

Know the Vital Signs of Innovation in Healthcare

Is your company innovative? One of the social metrics that I consider a vital sign is counting the number of times you hear someone say to someone else, “That was a good idea!” in meetings. How many times do you hear that in your company? Acknowledging good ideas creates a fly-wheel effect of more good ideas. But every idea is not a great idea, so don’t wear it out. Be judicious not gratuitous.

Also, consider these sources of innovation:

  • Mischief. Mischief is breaking the rules—going against the status quo.
  • Humor. Another of my vital signs for innovative teams and cultures is what I call the “laugh metric.” How many times do people belly laugh per day in your team and company? I’m sure there’s a directly proportional relationship between belly laughs and company performance.
  • Depression. Some of the most creative minds in history suffered from manic depression. Don’t let it get out of control but learn how to love the dark periods and moods of your life and channel that depression into creative, new ideas. Fight through to the other side.
  • Pen and paper. Put down the keyboard and draw what you’re thinking. It’s a limbic stimulant that activates the best, most creative ideas from your brain.
  • Naivety.You know you are onto a great idea when the experts openly laugh at how crazy it is. Wear naivety like a badge of honor. If that’s the worst of your sins, St. Peter will still let you in.
  • Pattern recognition.Take a proven concept or idea from over here in this context and apply it over there in a different context that has a similar pattern. For example, one of the things that makes the Health Catalyst R&D team different is we’ve been applying software engineering concepts to data engineering for over 20 years—way before Health Catalyst existed. It’s starting to catch on, but it was very unusual 20 years ago. Still, it always seemed like common sense to me. Object-oriented programming feels like common sense, but it revolutionized software development.
  • Walking. The Greek philosopher Diogenes would say, Solvitur ambulando, which is Latin for, “it is solved by walking.” Walk by yourself, not with anyone else, and let your mind wander while you wander with your feet.

In closing, the origins of healthcare computerization are right here in Utah, with people like Homer Warner, Al Pryor, and Reed Gardner. Don’t surrender that flag to Silicon Valley. Own it! We have a national healthcare crisis on our hands. We and our families are the patients. Challenge the status quo, take risks, be bold, and let’s make a difference.

Additional Reading

Would you like to learn more about this topic? Here are some articles we suggest:

  1. Three Must-Haves for Generating Innovation in Healthcare IT
  2. No More Excuses: We Need Disruptive Innovation in Healthcare Now
  3. Pragmatic Innovation in Healthcare: Taking Risk and Establishing Partnerships
  4. Transforming Healthcare: The Promise of Innovation
  5. Innovation in Healthcare: Why It’s Needed and Where It’s Going
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