Innovation in health care around delivering better experiences and outcomes at a lower cost has graduated from a discussion topic to an action item. All around us, we see exciting examples of bold thinking and experimentation to better serve patients. Already, many of these new models and methods are achieving positive results.

Thinking outside the box and working with nontraditional partners will be primary focuses of the Health & MedTech Track at this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, beginning this week in Austin, Texas. Our nation’s hospitals and health systems will be well represented, with many AHA members participating on panels to share innovative initiatives from across the country.

On March 9, I’ll be part of a panel focused on tomorrow’s health care leaders, sponsored by the AHA’s Value Initiative. Joining me will be John Haupert, AHA Board member and president and CEO of Atlanta’s Grady Health System, and S. Claiborne “Clay” Johnston, M.D., dean and vice president for medical affairs of Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin. The following day, I will serve on a panel discussing collaborative partnerships as a strategy for transformation. Watch for more coverage in AHA Today next week.

High-profile events like SXSW draw attention to the creative thinking and original approaches happening every day in health care. Another powerful lens is AHA’s 2019 Innovation Challenge – a juried award program to source and spread new technologies to address the social determinants of health.

AHA member organizations can submit entries about early-stage programs designed to address food, housing, transportation and other SDOH factors. The top three proposals will receive $100,000, $25,000 and $15,000 to help bring their program to life. Submissions are open through May 24. Winners will be announced at July's AHA Leadership Summit.

Groundbreaking ideas can bubble up from anywhere. My own organization, Atlantic Health System, has created an “idea incubator” to inspire our physicians and team members to share their best ideas for enhancing care delivery.

The spirit of innovation is alive and well. Let’s encourage that spirit – and each other – as we work together to advance health in America.

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