How Do You Measure Innovation?

Last year, the AAMC held its first Readiness for Reform Innovations Challenge, to which academic medical centers  across the country submitted best practices. Three winning institutions were honored at the 2011 AAMC Annual Meeting in November, winning $5,000 each for their innovative programs. The Wing of Zock is featuring posts from two of the winners, as well as a post from the chair of the selection panel, in a series highlighting the successes and learning opportunities that came from developing these initiatives and entering the Innovations Challenge. The winning submissions, as well as all of the other entries, can be seen in their entirety on the AAMC iCollaborative.

By Chuck Kilo, MD

When I was asked to help judge the entries in the inaugural AAMC Readiness for Reform (R4R) Innovations Challenge, I was excited to be part of an effort highlighting various best-practice initiatives from AMCs across the country.

The other judges and I learned a tremendous amount during the judging process, because it was the first time any of us had done such a thing. We all came away with lessons learned from the challenges and successes of the entrants. Throughout the month-long process, I tried to look at things with two hats on: that of a judge, getting what we were trying to accomplish done in an efficient and concrete manner; and that of a learner, taking steps back and evaluating what we were learning and how we could improve in the future.

The challenges we ran into throughout the judging became part of the learning experience. One of the most important things we can do for the next Challenge is to get the word out earlier and to be clearer about the instructions — what programs really qualify and what proposals we want to see. All of the entries were great, but some initiatives were relatively new with few results, whereas other entries were long-standing programs that had benefited from ongoing improvement. Categorizing timelines and results data more specifically could help us refine the judging process, as well as give some entries a fairer chance of winning.

At the end of the day, the process went smoothly, and we met our collective objective of highlighting what was going on in the world of innovation. The judges had never worked together; some of us knew each other but not all. It was a really fun set of interactions; people were really listening to and being respectful of one another. We had a great dialogue; all of the different people brought so many different perspectives; a positive set of interactions helped us to see everyone’s perspective on the entries. It was a very fair and enlightening process for all of us. We selected some highly qualified projects to recognize. We came out of it feeling that, even though it was only the first time, we had a high-quality field of entries.

At the end of the day, the most important part of the Innovations Challenge is directing people towards the winners. There is a lot of content in those winning entries. Most important, when you read them and forward them to the appropriate folks in your organizations, they will see that there is some really good improvement work and best practices to learn from.

The 2012 Innovations Challenge is currently underway, and I am honored to once again sit on the judging panel for the entries. Be sure to enter by September 7, 2012.

—Charles “Chuck” Kilo, MD, is the Chief Medical Officer for Oregon Health and Sciences University. He can be reached at

AAMC wants to hear about programs that transform health care delivery! Submissions for the 2012 Innovation Challenge are due Friday, September 7, 2012, and are sought in these areas:

  • Innovative initiatives that serve the chronically ill;
  • Coordinated primary care delivery systems;
  • Redesign of care for specific medical conditions;
  • Innovations in graduate medical education training.

 Three institutional winners will be announced at the AAMC Annual Meeting in November and awarded $5,000 each. Questions? Email