Cube Brilliance - Why Context Matters in Healthcare Innovation - Cover

Cube Brilliance - Why Context Matters in Healthcare Innovation

Early last month, I took the chance to get out of the office and spend the day among the blooming gardens of Thanksgiving Point in Lehi UT for the Utah HIMSS Innovations and Awards conference. Among the many impressive speakers, one that stood out to me was Todd Dunn, the Director of Innovation for Intermountain Healthcare Transformation Lab.

Befitting his title, Todd dove into the subject of innovation. Of his many insights, the metaphor that stuck out to me was the idea of “cube brilliance.” The idea being that, when we’re operating within only our own perspective, solutions oftentimes seem blindingly simple. It’s easy--in fact--to be brilliant in our own sphere of influence. The tricky part of innovation, it seems, is exporting that brilliance into the context of those for whom we innovate.

Context is king when trying to innovate, according to Todd. Upon reflection, it’s not hard to see that he’s correct. How often have we heard the marketing byline, “designed by doctors, for doctors”? The inherit promise being that this solution will be intuitive and hassle-free because it’s creators understand the environment it will live in.

Todd quoted Leonardo Da Vinci saying, “the eye, the window of the soul, is the chief means whereby the understanding can most fully and abundantly appreciate the infinite works of Nature; and the ear is second.” In essence, we can’t expect vendors to truly innovate great healthcare IT solutions, unless they’re somehow able to see, hear and truly digest the context of their customers.

He also jokingly referred to “the love metric.” No, it’s not a measurement of Aphrodite’s productivity, but rather it seeks to measure, “What would the user LOVE for your innovation to do?” A question that cannot be effectively answered without getting to know the details of your customer and the problems they need solved.

Yet, placing vendors into their customer’s context is easier said than done. Short of loading them onto a plane for a global tour, getting these international companies to digest the complex world that providers live in seems like an impossibility. Thankfully, where one speaker at UHIMSS posed a conundrum, another provided the answer.

Bob Cash, who leads our provider relations efforts, sat on one of the discussion panels at UHIMSS, he also took a few minutes to speak on a few of the different efforts that KLAS has been working on as of late. While KLAS can’t act as the private jet for vendors, dragging them to and fro in an endless whirlwind of customer visits, what we can do is amplify the provider’s voice. For many years this has been, and will continue to be our focus: Delivering the needs of providers to the industry in a way that helps vendors become better.

Yet, as KLAS has followed Todd’s recommendations and put ourselves further into the context of those we serve, we’ve become better able to innovate for them. As Bob explains, KLAS has begun a new initiative called the EMR Improvement Collaborative. As we’ve spoken with providers following the wave of Meaningful Use EMR adoption, what we’ve discovered is that for many – their end users don’t very much like the systems that were just so laboriously installed.

If we were to put the question of a “love metric” to these physicians, many would respond that they’d love for their EMR to make their job easier. Unfortunately, in some cases it can feel like the opposite. Bob was able to highlight some of these concerns, and explain the early data that KLAS has gathered from the EMR Improvement Collaborative.

Our hope is that we can tear down the “cube brilliance” of various provider organizations and help them to share their best practices with their peers. Below is the video where Bob speaks to some of our data, and if you would like to learn more about how your organization can participate, please contact us at