NtC Video Podcasts September 7, 2023

NtC 23: Skunk Works

by Barry P Chaiken, MD
From Navigating the Code: How Revolutionary Technology Transforms the Patient-Physician Journey

In the middle of World War II, the U.S. Air Tactical Command of the Army Air Force – the modern-day Air Force was not established until 1947 – met with Lockheed Aircraft Company to express a need for a jet fighter. One month after the meeting, a young engineer hand-delivered a proposal for a jet fighter to the Tactical Command. Two days later, the government gave the go-ahead, and Skunk Works was born. The Lockheed Skunk Works went on to design and test numerous well-known airplanes, including the U-2 spy plane and F35 Lightning fighter.

Businesses now use skunk works to describe an experimental laboratory or department within a company, typically smaller than and independent of its primary research division. A skunk works group aims to work outside the normal constraints of an organization’s usual rules and structure to innovate quickly.

Upon passage of the HITECH Act in 2009, the U.S. government provided billions of dollars to push the investment in healthcare information technology. Now, 14 years later, with over 90% of provider organizations using electronic healthcare record systems, we continue sending faxes between organizations that do not use the same EHR. The lack of interoperability hurts clinical outcomes and wastes resources. And in many organizations, HIT departments implemented the EHR without proper workflow design that facilitated ease of use for clinicians and leveraged the power of the EHR to improve patient care.

Fixing healthcare requires a skunk works, a multidisciplinary group of dedicated professionals representing all parts of an organization focused on achieving valuable change that improves quality, safety, access, and the cost of care. While my focus in later podcasts will be on information technology, you can apply the skunk works concept to any project that requires innovation and rapid development and faces unusual odds for success.

I look forward to your thoughts, so please submit your comments in this post. And subscribe to my weekly newsletter, “What’s Your Take?” on DocsNetwork.com. Thanks for your time today.

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