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Ignite Spotlight: An Interview with Harvard Pilgrim Health Care’s Patricia Forts

Published By Guest Blogger

Healthcare, like many industries, has gone through a transformation over the years. An influx of new startups disrupting the status quo, the patient experience becoming critical to success, and changes in consumer demand have all influenced this change.

With change comes a need for established players to think differently about how they future-proof their businesses, while providing exceptional value to the patients they serve.

We’re fortunate to have Patricia Forts, Deputy Chief of Innovation and Strategy at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, speaking at Spigit’s Ignite conference in May who knows firsthand what established companies need to do to not only weather the storm but thrive. She has been in the healthcare space for several years, and has had a front row seat as the industry has gone through transformation.

As you’ll see in the below conversation with Forts, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care is one organization that’s taking a proactive approach to innovation.

2018 is in full swing, are there any trends in innovation or technology that you’re excited about exploring as it relates to Harvard Pilgrim Health Care’s innovation program?

Patricia: We’re really excited about several of the innovation initiatives we are working on in 2018. We have a number of partnerships that we are launching, primarily with provider partners in this area that allow us to test clinical innovations that are coming to market through some of the new digital health startup companies that we work with. One such organization is Massachusetts-based digital health innovation lab, PULSE @MassChallenge.

Was there a moment in time, an “a-ha” moment if you will, when tapping into the collective intelligence of your workforce to drive innovation was a no-brainer?

Patricia: Our employees were a critical part of our plan out of the gate when we were building Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Center for Innovation – which aims to improve the quality, value, and experience of our members’ healthcare through insight and innovation. We identified three key levers that we wanted to focus on. One was employee engagement; essentially driving a culture change within the organization.

The second was generating new partnerships and capitalizing on the work that’s already being done in this area because Boston, of course, is such a hotbed for innovation in the healthcare space.

The third was strategic investments, particularly in the digital health space. We knew from the beginning that one of our most important levers was to focus on employee engagement.

You mentioned the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Center for Innovation. Since establishing it, what are some of the lessons you’ve learned when it comes to crowdsourcing?

Patricia: We’ve absolutely learned that ideation is a great way to involve employees across the enterprise. It gives us a much broader reach and exposure to the individuals in our organization that are excited about participating in the innovation process with us. It helps us reinforce culture change by getting staff involved, thinking in different ways, and generates enthusiasm for the changes that we’re seeing both within and outside the organization in the healthcare space.

IdeaPlace: Let’s go a layer deeper. When you announced to your employees that you were implementing ideation technology to get them involved in the innovation process, what was the roll out strategy and how did the workforce react?

Patricia: When we rolled out SpringBoard, our Planview IdeaPlace innovation platform, we started with a fireside chat where our CEO, Eric Schultz, shared his ideas around innovation with management from throughout the organization. We also had Doug Williams from Planview IdeaPlace share some of his learnings more broadly around this topic.

Doug’s insights – including the three types of innovation and the elements of crowdsourced innovation – along with Eric and others at the senior most levels in the organization sharing their experiences and expectations, went a long way to create interest and excitement in our new platform.

Once we rolled our first SpringBoard challenge out company-wide, there were folks who were really interested and excited jumping right in with both feet. Then there were others that looked from afar and watched what was happening. By the time the second challenge came along, they too jumped right in.

IdeaPlace: Thinking through all the lessons you’ve learned since establishing the Center for Innovation, if you came across someone wanting to start their own innovation program, what advice would you give them?

Patricia: Define your focus. Much like we did, define the key levers that you want to impact in the early years, because there’s so many different ways to go at innovation. Is it internal? Is it external? Is it with your employees? Is it just your leadership? There’s so many different places you can focus your effort and energy. Without defining what the most important areas are upfront, you could get a little bit lost. For us, identifying culture change as one of our key focus areas really helped us. Then move towards Planview IdeaPlace and an ideation platform, which allows you to give key constituents a voice around innovation.

IdeaPlace: With Ignite coming up in May, what are you looking forward to?

Patricia: I was at Ignite last year, and I really enjoyed the main stage speakers and hearing the stories of how other companies have built out their innovation programs, in particular the ways they’re involving their crowd in innovation. I was inspired by the different ways both the speakers and the attendees approach innovation and bring others into the innovation forums that they have built in their organizations.

The one-on-one and small group interactions were also helpful. Sitting in the rooms at the various round tables or panel presentations, I learned a lot from the folks that I was with and had an opportunity to discuss in various settings how we’re all approaching crowdsourcing, coming up with challenge ideas, and generating success using Planview IdeaPlace.

I’m looking forward to the same type of interactions.

Can you share a little bit about what the Ignite audience will hear during your session?

Patricia: I’ll be sharing Harvard Pilgrim’s experience as newcomers to ideation in a very risk averse organization, and what we did to bring our employees into the innovation mix and get them excited about being involved.


Ignite is the premier conference for innovation leaders around the world. It’s a two-day experience that brings together a growing community of innovation practitioners to share real-world case studies, proven strategies for growth and transformation, and a lot more.

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Written by Guest Blogger