Health care is among the many industries undergoing transformation as a result of the explosion of digital technologies. Cardinal Health Inc., a global, integrated health care services and products company, responded to the digital challenge by establishing a new innovation center in 2014 called Fuse. Located near the company’s corporate headquarters in Dublin, Ohio, Fuse is built around cross-functional teams, which means that Cardinal Health’s biomedical engineers, designers, and scientists collaborate with its patient-facing health care providers and even patients themselves to develop and test ideas about how to better meet health care needs.
Fuse’s cocreator and current leader Brent Stutz, Cardinal Health’s senior vice president of commercial technologies, sat down with MIT Sloan Management Review’s guest editor for the Digital Business Initiative, Gerald C. Kane, to talk about how the company uses its innovation process to improve Cardinal Health customers’ experiences and outcomes.
Before Fuse existed, the commercial technology solution existed; it just didn’t have this innovation arm to help incubate new ideas. Is that fair to say?
There were some existing commercial technology solutions, but they were intermixed amongst enterprise IT systems. Three years ago, the senior leadership team realized that building health care IT solutions for our customers is very different than running large warehouse management systems. The CEO of the [company’s] Pharmaceutical segment came up with the idea for Fuse, and I was tapped to build the commercial technology platform as well as the Fuse facility.
Can you walk me through the life cycle of one of these ideas?
Ideas come from both customers and our business. Fuse uses some techniques from Lean startups, and some that mirror the Google one-week sprint process. We sprinkle in some design thinking and user experience mock-ups throughout the process. I take the responsibility of funding the idea through our R&D mechanisms, and then I’ll partner with a business unit to land in. The actual marketing, sales, and care would move into a business unit after it reaches MVP [minimum viable product].
Our innovation process has three phases: explore, experiment, and then pilot. We have an opportunity to pull the plug at any time, so we kill and archive projects frequently. I’m not afraid to try 42 things and only have six make it out the other end.