Bridge to the Future
The 2nd annual Harris Health Innovation Summit, sponsored by the Harris Health System and hosted by the TMC Innovation Institute, was held on Thursday, Feb. 18 at TMCx.
“Innovation is all about doing things differently—it’s about thinking about the future and then making the future happen,” said George Masi, president and CEO of Harris Health System. “Change is upon us, and we have the opportunity to create that change, not react to it.
“Innovation started as a formal initiative at Harris Health about 15 years ago,” he continued. “It was a very modest program, with little idea suggestion boxes in the hallway and ideas to change the way that we might do business and affect patient outcomes. It’s matured to the point where it is today because of the work of everyone in this room. Real innovation comes from the bottom up.”
Over the past several years, the Harris Health Think Innovation program—a cornerstone of the Center for Innovation at Harris Health System—has encouraged hundreds of employees and medical staff to introduce new or reengineered processes, technologies and approaches that allow work to be accomplished more efficiently and effectively. As a result, Harris Health has been able to provide markedly improved health care services to its patients, families and visitors.
“We realized that each of our innovators needed to be celebrated,” said Andrea Kelley, coordinator of the Harris Health Center for Innovation, during her welcoming statement. “And excitement is in the air, because we know that the time for change is now. It’s a gift—that’s why we call it the present.”
“You’ll find that you all have a clock in front of you,” continued Shanna Cummings, director of the Harris Health Center for Innovation, referring to the smattering of plastic alarm clocks perched on each table throughout the room. “You might ask yourself, ‘What does a clock have to do with innovation?’ But if you think about our concept and what we’re doing here at Harris Health System and within the innovation program, we’re looking at the future. What can we do to be creative? What can we do to be unique? And how can we share the gifts and talents that we have?”
The urgency of the summit’s mantra (“the time is now!”) was felt throughout the day as speakers simultaneously reflected on a rich heritage of innovation at Harris Health while laying the foundation for a constantly expanding “bridge to the future.”
“When we talk about innovation, we really have two choices,” said Parikshet Babber, M.D., chief medical officer at Harris Health System. “One is to remain in the status quo, but the other is to take this path of creativity, innovation and change. We also have to realize that when we go and create and innovate, while one person can serve as a catalyst, the whole change and transformation movement has to permeate the organization.”
For Babber, the creativity of innovation and the necessity of a unified sense or purpose is perfectly exemplified in the microbiology lab that’s been developed at Harris Health. To meet challenges that face today’s microbiology labs—including increasing volumes, staff shortages and the introduction of new testing techniques—Harris Health’s microbiology lab is implementing a new, cutting-edge, total automation system that will perform over 1,000 tests each day with minimal human intervention.
The summit’s keynote speaker, Bernard A. Harris Jr., M.D., CEO and managing partner of Vesalius Ventures, Inc. and a former NASA astronaut, took attendees on an interstellar journey as he recounted his experiences beyond Earth’s atmosphere. A veteran astronaut for over 18 years, he has logged more than 438 hours and traveled over 7.2 million miles in space.
“It was my job, as the crew medical officer, to figure out how spaceflight influences someone’s health and develop countermeasures accordingly,” Harris said. “I did the first physical examination in space, I did the first IV in space, and I did the first central venous line in space. I was pretty busy.
“All of this has led us to think about the impact that the space program has had on our lives here on Earth,” he continued. “The industry that’s probably been impacted the most by that is health care.”
The event concluded with an awards presentation designed to highlight several innovations throughout Harris Health System that have resulted in tangible, real-life benefits to quality of care. One of the recipients, Nasser Lakis, M.D., chief of cardiology at Ben Taub Hospital and chair of general and interventional cardiology at Baylor College of medicine, was awarded the Think Transformation Award—given to physicians who apply innovation in their every day practice.
“Our Think Innovation Awards are given to physicians who really embody a culture of change, innovation, and really improve quality of care for our patients,” Babber said. “That really helps improve the outcome of not only individual patients, but our community as a whole.”
Prior to the summit itself, attendees had the opportunity to meet and mingle with members of TMCx’s digital health cohort, exploring potential avenues for collaboration.