New Survey Finds that the Largest U.S. Health Systems Employ Chief Innovation Officers but that Culture and Organizational Issues Hamper the Innovation Agenda

Findings from the Survey Will Be Featured in a Global HMPI Webinar on April 26

DURHAM, N.C.--()--The majority of the 40 largest US health systems have chief innovation officers (CInOs) but nearly two-thirds of these executives cite organizational structure and culture as the biggest obstacle to realizing their innovation goals, according to a survey published in the latest issue of Health Management, Policy and Innovation (HMPI).

The study by Harvard Business School, Duke University School of Medicine and Russell Reynolds Associates, a leading global search and leadership advisory firm, is the first of its kind to examine the innovation agenda and organizational support for CInOs across the largest US health systems.

“We found that most CInOs are very enthusiastic about improving or transforming processes, products and services,” said Kevin Schulman, professor of medicine at Duke and the study’s senior author. “But health care hasn’t been forced to change its business model in a very long time. It seems that many organizations haven’t yet structured their innovation agenda for success, even when they have created a CInO role.”

The authors compared organizational design and resources in the health systems they studied based on learnings from decades of research on business innovation across industries.

“Given the recent increase in innovation leaders within the highest executive ranks of US health systems, we sought to assess if CInOs are equipped with the tools and organizational support required for success,” said Sneha Shah, a student at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and a recent Harvard Business School graduate.

The authors interviewed 25 out of 32 CInOs working at 40 of the country’s largest health systems. Two thirds of the respondents have held their positions five years or less. Approximately half characterized their role as strategic but only a little over a third reported directly to the chief executive officer.

The median budget for the role was $3.5 million, but only $3 million when the respondents reported that their role was strategic. Some organizations invested significantly more, usually through a venture capital function. Sixteen percent of the survey respondents said budget, talent and process were the biggest barriers to innovation, while 64 percent said it was culture or organizational structure.

“As reimbursement, value-drivers and the patient/provider experience change, academic medical centers must change and innovate,” said Kate Harvey, consultant at Russell Reynolds. “A new type of leader is required to improve the quality of patient care, and to discover new funding sources to support the research and teaching missions.”

Russell Reynolds consultant Amy Saddington added that with Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and J.P. Morgan teaming up to transform healthcare, “there is a clear call to action for integrated delivery networks, academic medical centers and health systems.”

“In this ecosystem, innovation is crucial,” Saddington said. “It is a mechanism for change, no matter how broadly or narrowly scoped.”

For a Russell Reynolds infographic of the study’s findings, click here.

Russell Reynolds consultants work with public, private and nonprofit organizations across industries and regions to address complex leadership issues and to build teams of transformational leaders who can anticipate digital, economic and political trends.

Authors of the CInO study will discuss their findings in a global webinar on April 26 from noon to 1 pm EST. To register, click here.

About the Business School Alliance for Health Management

Formed in 2010, the Business School Alliance for Health Management (BAHM) is a consortium of 18 leading business school health management programs that supports faculty, students, and graduates in advancing education and thought leadership in the field. BAHM initiatives include an annual case competition, educational webinars, and Health Management, Policy and Innovation (HMPI), a quarterly journal that examines the challenges of the health sector from a business perspective.


for BAHM and HMPI
Kevin Schulman, 919-668-8593

Release Summary

Most of the largest US health systems have chief innovation officers; two-thirds of them say organization and culture issues are innovation barriers.


for BAHM and HMPI
Kevin Schulman, 919-668-8593