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Dr. Naomi Fried Discusses Innovation at Boston Children’s Hospital

Naomi FriedAs chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital, Dr. Naomi Fried is one of the nation’s top health IT gurus. Her position at a hub for scholarly advancement affords her the opportunity to meet and collaborate with top minds in academics, healthcare and technology. When she’s not innovating, Dr. Fried takes time to mentor those with health IT interests. Dr. Fried recently spoke with MedTech Boston about her work and how she strives to impact healthcare innovation on a daily basis.


Q: Why is the Innovation Acceleration Program (IAP) based at Boston Children’s Hospital?

A: Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) is a freestanding pediatric hospital, and the senior leadership wanted to build an internal, clinical innovation capability. We have an effective structured innovation program focused on enhancing the culture of innovation and to assist in improving quality [and] the patient experience and to help enhance the efficiency of clinical care. Credit is due to the hospital’s leadership who had the vision to create a formal innovation program four years ago and to continue to support and accelerate it. Today, other hospitals are following suit and creating innovation departments of their own.

Q: What do you tell residents/fellows/MS’s who want to be involved?

A: Whenever I meet a student, resident or fellow who is interested in innovation I say, ‘Welcome!’ [and] ‘Awesome!’  and I ask them how I can help. Most of these individuals have ideas they want to work on but also want to be a part of an innovation community. Many want to take advantage of the opportunity to collaborate and innovate with others. People who don’t have ideas can be involved as well.

Q: How do you measure the success of your innovation program given the number of incubators out there?

A: We are not an incubator but more of an internal accelerator. There is a difference. Incubators try to build companies, while we, as an accelerator, are trying to solve problems in the hospital and innovate in the delivery of care. There is a significant overlap, however, as incubators are natural partners with us.  We have innovators who want to take their innovations and form a company and can benefit greatly from working with incubators. There are also companies in incubators that come to us to pilot new technology in the hospital.

Q: How did you get started in innovation? 

A: I have always been interested in new ideas and working on the edge of how ideas get commercialized and spread. Prior to working at Kaiser Permanente (KP), I worked in a series of early stage healthcare start-ups. After the project at KP that I was working on got spun out, I was asked to help build an innovation capability, evaluating emerging innovation technologies.  Innovation is a discipline that I have been studying and teaching myself. I have tried to learn about innovation from other industries and bring those lessons to my work in healthcare.

I have been inspired by Professor Clayton Christensen’s work. He teaches us that if we don’t disrupt our own core business, someone else will!

At BCH we don’t see the other major academic medical centers as competition, but rather as potential collaborators.  I think Boston is a wonderful place for healthcare innovation. It is one of the best regions for healthcare innovation due to its robust healthcare and innovation ecosystems.

Q: Can you tell us about your daily/weekly schedule in a sector that is constantly on the move and evolving?

A: I would say that my schedule is very dynamic since I travel frequently and speak at conferences and share what we are doing both nationally and internationally. My job involves working with a team of experts and professionals who accelerate innovation at BCH. With seed funding and software resources, we support innovators who are working throughout the innovation life cycle and the O-gap. One of my favorite parts of my job is working directly with the innovators. I also work with hospital leadership to support projects and strategic innovation opportunities. Some of my time is spent talking to and guiding folks both inside the hospital and beyond about how to innovate. I am always on the hunt for new ideas for BCH.

Q: What is your ultimate goal as chief innovation officer at BCH?

A: My goal is to make BCH a wonderful and easy place for innovation. I want to create a culture for innovators to thrive.

Q: Any advice for an individual looking to start a business or become involved in healthcare innovation?

A: Be flexible and don’t become demoralized if your idea doesn’t become a reality immediately.  Failure is part of the innovation process. If things aren’t working, pick yourself up and figure out what didn’t work and move forward. Failure is an opportunity to learn and get smarter. Partnership and collaboration are excellent means to leverage the expertise of others to accelerate your ideas.

Q: Where do you see the delivery of healthcare in 2050 and 2100?

A: I can perhaps offer some comments on the year 2050, but 2100 is going to be difficult. In the future, we are going to be untethered from the bricks and mortar of conventional clinics and hospitals. Doctors will leverage technology tremendously to make the delivery of healthcare more efficient and convenient for patients. Providers will be using technology extensively in their practice; however, there will not be an elimination of the physical examination and the laying on of one’s hands. In the future, technology will take waste and inconvenience out of the system, helping clinicians deliver healthcare services more efficiently and more effectively.

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