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Five ways workathons can foster innovation

Five ways workathons can foster innovation

Five ways a workathon can foster Healthcare innovation

By: Christopher Foster-McBride, Global Executive for Healthcare D&A, KPMG Global Healthcare Practice 

Analytics is one of the most valuable tools for transforming healthcare. In the next decade, it will enable healthcare leaders and decision makers to manage the massive changes they are facing, at both an organizational and operational level. Understanding and harnessing analytics will allow leaders to become innovators and at the same time mitigate the risks associated with change. There is enormous potential for analytics to help improve care quality, make services more efficient and reduce costs. At the same time, new analytical techniques such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) have leaders rightfully questioning what additional insights can be derived from their rich and plentiful data sources.

Aligned to KPMG's Global Healthcare market offerings and in partnership with our key strategic alliance partner Microsoft, KPMG assembled a team of 35 of its best and brightest data and analytics and health experts from eight countries for a five-day 'Workathon' event in Manchester, UK. The innovation and improvement event aimed to use our expertise to tackle the common challenges facing healthcare organizations and systems from across the globe. As a firm, we understand the advancements in cloud technologies, and we also understand that most of the healthcare sector's analytical work is still very manual (Excel-based analysis). Many organizations lack standardized workflows, the right skills, and do not systematically integrate or harness data to enable actionable insight from their D&A tools.

“Creating the right conditions and setting the strategy for the Workathon was key to its success. We were keen to ensure the team's use cases reflected the needs of our healthcare clients and did extensive pre-work to ensure we understood the team's technical requirements to maximize the time they could focus on design and development of solutions during the event,” explains Evan Rawstron, Global lead for Healthcare D&A at KPMG.

Under the guidance of an experienced `Hackmaster' who facilitated the Workathon event, the international teams developed a single cloud environment (using Microsoft Azure and Dynamics) and developed four solutions which can be used to support our healthcare clients as they aim to improve population health, integrated care, and provider efficiency. We also used the skills and expertise of our data scientists to reimagine how AI could enhance the solutions, included clinical oversight to scrutinize assumptions, and held a client panel to understand how we could take the outputs of the event and transform them into an offering.

Workathon's are becoming popular in many industries as they are seen as an effective vehicle to drive innovation and change. There is a recognition that the pace of change in areas like D&A and health IT demands a different approach. In our experience, a Workathon quickly allows you to:

  1. Build camaraderie - we managed to get the best out of the 35 people who attended. They quickly became aligned and actively engaged in developing, designing and creating solutions they were passionate about.
  2. Hone current skills and surface new ones - we have talented people and we allowed our experts from across geographies to collaborate and share their skill and expertise. More importantly, we gave them the freedom to express themselves.
  3. Client engagement - we had a client panel on the last day that was compromised of individuals who have a passion for healthcare and D&A. They asked our teams to think about the end user (a patient), and the presentations uncovered market opportunities. Clients enjoyed being part of the Workathon process and they saw the power of our alliances first-hand.
  4. Working at pace is exciting and yields quick results - we did more in five working days than we had in the previous six months as a network.
  5. Acknowledge accomplishment and make it fun - we had some stand out performance over the week, people sacrificed sleep to progress their solutions and we mixed the hard work with team building events. This meant relationships forged at the event will live long after everyone has gone home, and will continue to benefit our organization on future projects.

We know from experience that trust and shared understanding are critical enablers of good collaboration. The Workathon was fundamentally a creative process and as a bonus it resulted in creating market opportunities for our teams to pursue.

For more information about the Workathon or to speak with someone in our Global Healthcare team, email us at

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