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Center for Care Innovations

Training healthcare professionals to shape and spread innovation

Since the passing of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, care delivery organizations have been adapting and transforming to meet the demands of America’s rapidly changing healthcare environment. In order to build resilient systems of care and complete care offerings, the Center for Care Innovations (CCI) and The Innovation Consultancy at Kaiser Permanente partnered with gravitytank to launch the Innovation Catalyst Program—a collaborative network to develop clinical teams’ innovation and design capabilities for application to initiatives across major healthcare systems, public health institutions and safety net organizations.


As the name implies, the Catalyst program creates change and leverages the nascent skills and leadership of emerging healthcare innovators and risk-takers. Recruiting the initial cohort starts with looking for applicants already working on interesting side projects and special initiatives. Inviting those individuals to apply ensures the Catalyst class has more than just a passing interest in finding new approaches to their work—they are actively pursuing transformation and gaining traction within their own organizations.


Center for Care Innovations



Featured Outcomes

Design thinking curriculum

3-day training session and follow-up workshops

Innovator’s Guidebook & method cards

Online learning community + web app

Innovation Catalyst brand identity


Besides exhibiting a natural proclivity for problem-solving and working differently, Catalysts need commitment and clearance from their supervisors, directors and managers. Securing this support requires orienting senior leadership to the expectations and requirements of Catalysts, as well as the value and impact the training would have on administrative and clinical teams. Catalysts are strongly encouraged to participate in pairs with like-minded colleagues and project teammates to strengthen the organizational potential and program’s success.


Shadowing Catalyst recruits throughout their work day helped gravitytank identify several barriers to innovation consistent across organizations—independent of size, region or patient population. The most prevalent issue we observe are the Catalysts’ desire for a structured, repeatable innovation methodology and shared vocabulary that worked across different initiatives

“...these approaches are really effective and really the way we need to do business moving forward trying to innovate in the safety net.”
— Jonathan Fuchs, MD, MPH, Director, Center for Learning & Innovation San Francisco Department of Public Health

For people outside of innovation, knowing how and where to begin an innovation project can be extremely daunting. The approach is further complicated by the myriad methods and techniques associated with human-centered design. Distilling the innovation process down to 6 core principles shifts the focus from which-methods-to-use-when to a straightforward behavior-based approach. Emphasizing the fundamental truths behind all innovation work and highlighting four mindsets (empathy, exploration, experimentation and entrepreneurship) critical to success ensures our curriculum resonates with participants—regardless of their familiarity or previous training.


The Catalyst program kicks-off with a 3-day, deep-dive training. Catalysts are encouraged to bring their toughest internal challenges as fodder for the workshop activities. A curated set of tools and resources are explored over the three days and collected in a responsive social web app designed to keep the Catalysts motivated, sharing, learning and connected.


Supporting Catalyst “graduates” beyond our 3-day kick-off, requires a year’s worth of multimodal follow-on experiences. Partnering with CCI and The Innovation Consultancy to coordinate these touchpoints, we created learning opportunities ranging from “curbside consults”—ad hoc check-ins with innovation coaches—to booster session webinars on special crowdsourced topics. In addition to virtual interactions, we help plan in-person events including a mid-year “reunion” for Catalysts to share progress, pitch projects, provide critique and celebrate community.


The inaugural Catalyst program launched in September 2013 with 22 leading clinicians and process improvement consultants from Kaiser Permanente and California’s safety net organizations. The growing alumni network continues to introduce and champion innovations within their own organizations and help others discover new ways to advance their work. And the program continues to evolve—expanding from California to New Jersey in 2015 with philanthropic support from funders like BlueShield of California Foundation and the Nicholson Foundation.

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