Henry Ford Health System Stakes Its Future on Health Innovation

July 2, 2014
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Henry Ford was perhaps one of the greatest innovators of his day. It would be hard to imagine the American automobile business without the fingerprints of Henry Ford. It might surprise you to know that Mr. Ford’s genius wasn’t limited to innovation on the automotive assembly line.

Henry Ford was perhaps one of the greatest innovators of his day. It would be hard to imagine the American automobile business without the fingerprints of Henry Ford. It might surprise you to know that Mr. Ford’s genius wasn’t limited to innovation on the automotive assembly line. In fact, Henry Ford often brought the best and brightest on his team to his namesake hospital, the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, where they developed technologies and solutions that are still a mainstay of health system and hospital facility and clinical operations today.

Last Friday I had an opportunity to visit the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, and meet with the distinguished physician and surgeon who is leading the hospital’s new Innovation Institute in the tradition of Henry Ford himself.

henry ford health systemScott A. Dulchavsky (right), M.D., Ph.D. is the CEO of the Innovation Institute at Henry Ford. It doesn’t take long after meeting Dr. Dulchavsky to realize that you are in the presence of a brilliant, engaged and highly accomplished physician, surgeon and clinical leader. Through his many connections with some this nation’s most prominent business leaders and philanthropists, some of whom have been his own patients, Dr. Dulchavsky has pulled together funds to create what has to be one of the finest health Innovation Institutes in the country. He has assembled a team to harvest clinical innovation ideas from both within the Henry Ford Hospital System, and the greater community. He introduced me to design engineers who are now working full time at the Innovation Institute to collaborate with doctors, nurses, administrators, support staff, and really anyone who has a great idea for improving health and healthcare delivery. Employees at Henry Ford who come forward with ideas for a better “mousetrap” can even share in generous royalties from their inventions.

innovation in healthcareMany ideas have already been fully developed and spun off as successful ventures. One idea from the team led to the design of a much improved hospital gown that is both more practical and stylish, not to mention more modest, than the gowns typically found in hospitals. They’ve even come up with special designs specifically for breast cancer patients and veterans. Other ideas include new ways to use modern technology like 3D printers to design and manufacture improved medical supplies such as better connectors to respiratory equipment. Dr. Dulchavsky also demonstrated how the team is taking patient education into the community by deploying touch-friendly kiosks in houses of worship, schools, and other places where people tend to gather.

WW Knight

Following my visit to Henry Ford hospital I had the honor of providing a keynote address for an anniversary celebration and dedication of a new facility at my residency program, the W. W. Knight Family Practice Residency at Promedica Toledo Hospital in Toledo, Ohio. Promedica has opened a new, state-of-the-art facility for clinical education and patient care adjacent to Toledo Hospital. Not only did I have a chance to catch up with old friends from my residency program days, but I also got to spend some time with the enthusiastic crop of current residents in training there. I left feeling that the future of Family Medicine is in good hands. 

Much has changed in clinical practice over the course of my career, and much will continue to change in the decades ahead. The leadership for that change is already in place, guiding the advances that arise from places like the Innovation Institute at Henry Ford Hospital to the leaders and faculty instructing the next generation of bright young minds in training at our medical schools, hospitals and residency programs across the land.

My thanks to Dr. Dulchavsky, the Henry Ford Hospital, the W. W. Knight Family Practice Residency Program, Promedica, and my colleagues at Microsoft for the hospitality and terrific meetings during my business trip to the region.  

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