AHA’s Future of Rural Health Care Task Force, which launched last month, recently invited author Safi Bahcall to share examples of how industries throughout history have navigated the tension between the new and old, and how rural hospitals can apply these lessons to successfully nurture new, innovative ideas. To hear Bahcall share innovation lessons from his recent book, Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Disease, and Transform Industries, that health care leaders can apply, listen to AHA's podcast Applying innovation lessons from other fields

An invisible beam that detects ships and airplanes. An innovative drug that reduces cholesterol in a way no one has tried. The notion that tumors can be killed by choking off their blood supply. These things — radar, statins and anti-angiogenesis drugs, respectively — are taken for granted today. But when first proposed, they were laughed at, rejected and deemed impossible. 

In health care, we are fortunate to be surrounded by people who are passionate about their work and dedicated to serving others. Although we know generating new ideas is challenging, it is essential to advancing the health of individuals in all communities. 

The AHA recognizes the importance of innovation and is investing in shaping long-range strategic policy, guided by the thought leadership from our members. 

That is why we launched the Future of Rural Health Care Task Force last month to take on the challenge of developing bold new ideas to create sustainable care delivery and financing models for the future. As outlined in AHA’s Rural Report this year, rural hospitals face emergent, recent and persistent challenges that are acutely felt across the country. With 113 rural hospital closures since 2010, AHA recognizes the need to identify sustainable models to ensure local access, in addition to the important advocacy efforts to address the challenges of today.

The task force comprises 28 rural health care leaders from across the country, representing hospitals of all sizes. The group is chaired by Kris Doody, CEO of Cary Medical in Caribou, Maine. Task force members embraced the call to action knowing that creating bold, innovative and new ideas is challenging. As one member said at our kickoff meeting, “We didn’t come here because it was easy; we came here because we know it is hard.”  

Focusing on the future requires everyone to step away from the existing structures and day-to-day challenges that many rural hospitals face. To help the task force build a foundation to support and foster new ideas, we invited Safi Bahcall, author of Loonshots: How to nurture the crazy ideas that win wars, cure diseases, and transform industries, to speak to the group.

In his remarks, Bahcall discussed how radar, statins and anti-angiogenesis drugs are all innovations that, as the book’s title suggests, won wars and cured diseases, but were almost not a reality. The book has many other examples from varying industries that highlight the tension between the new and the old, and examines leadership approaches to successfully nurture new ideas. 

Bahcall sat down with AHA to record a podcast for our Advancing Health channel. He shared examples from different industries on how to innovate – either through strategy or product – and helped connect these lessons learned to health care leaders, specifically rural hospital leaders, looking to apply them in their organizations. We are excited to share the podcast and hope that the stories offer a new and different perspective that can spark new thinking that supports the innovation we know is happening in hospitals across the country. 

Joy Lewis is the AHA’s vice president of strategic policy and leads the Association’s long-range policy planning efforts. Melissa Mannon is an associate director of policy development supporting AHA’s long-range policy planning efforts.  

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