Healthcare Innovation Announces the Winning Teams in Our Innovator Awards Program

July 12, 2021
The editors of Healthcare Innovation are delighted to announce the winning teams and the semifinalist winners in our annual Innovator Awards Program
Innovator Awards

The editors of Healthcare Innovation are delighted to announce the winning teams and the semifinalist winners in our annual Innovator Awards Program.

The winning teams in the 2021 Innovator Awards Program:

  • First-Place Winning Team: UCHealth, Denver, Colorado
  • Second-Place Winning Team: Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, Durham
  • Co-Third-Place Winning Team: Kaiser Permanente Southern California and the Southern California Permanente Medical Group, Pasadena
  • Co-Third-Place Winning Team: Children’s Health, Dallas, Texas


  • Penn Medicine, Philadelphia
  • Landmark Health, Huntington Beach, California
  • Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston
  • Seattle Children’s Hospital
  • Stanford Children’s Health, Palo Alto, California
  • The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, Houston

As the U.S. healthcare delivery system hurtles forward into the emerging landscape—one filled with change and challenges of all kinds—the leaders of the most pioneering healthcare organizations are figuring out new ways to help lead their own organizations, and the industry more broadly, forward. There are hospitals, medical groups, health systems, and health plans whose leaders have been moving forward into that future, designing solutions to long-present problems, and imagining new ways to deliver and manage care and the care experience.

What’s clear to everyone who’s been paying attention is that none of this is happening in a vacuum. As the Office of the Actuary inside the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported already back in February 2021, the Medicare actuaries predicted that total U.S. healthcare system spending will reach $6 trillion by 2027, and will reach 19.4 percent of GDP by that year. And even though healthcare spending slowed temporarily during the early months of 2021, as elective procedures were halted over infection concerns during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, all signs are pointing to a very aggressive return of expenditures on procedures and other forms of care delivery, some of it delayed during the early days of the pandemic and now overdue. In other words, costs are already going up again healthcare system-wide.

This year, the twelfth year in a row in which we, the editors of Healthcare Innovation (until two-and-a-half years ago, known as Healthcare Informatics), have been recognizing teams of innovators, we are proud once again to share with you the profiles of the winning teams in our Innovator Awards Program for provider organizations. This year, we are excited to share four profile stories for you from: UCHealth in Denver, Colorado; the Durham-based Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina; Kaiser Permanente Southern California and the Southern California Permanente Medical Group, Pasadena; and Children’s Health, based in Dallas.

We are also delighted to announce the semifinalist winning teams: Penn Medicine, Philadelphia; Landmark Health, Huntington Beach, California; Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston; Seattle Children’s Hospital; Stanford Children’s Health, Palo Alto, California; and the Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, Houston.

Each of these organizations has shown their colleagues and peers across the healthcare delivery system how to create authentic innovation:

>   The leaders at UCHealth created a Virtual Health Center that not only is supporting the clinical operations of the smaller community hospitals being added into the UCHealth system; one of the VHC’s achievements has been the leveraging of data algorithms to support the early identification of patients’ conditions, before they slide into a crisis level of sepsis.

>   Leaders at the Durham-based Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, which serves more than 3.8 million members in that state, made a commitment over a year ago to leverage artificial intelligence to firmly and comprehensively attack the challenge of inpatient hospital readmissions, raising patient engagement scores from 12 percent to 57 percent in just the first year of the program.

>   As the COVID-19 pandemic tore through communities nationwide last spring, senior clinician and administrative leaders at Kaiser Permanente Southern California and the Southern California Permanente Medical Group created a hospital-at-home program designed to relieve Kaiser hospital facility bed capacity while caring for sick patients who could successfully be cared for in their homes—to success across time and going into the future.

>   The senior clinicians and administrators at Children’s Health, one of the largest paediatricti healthcare systems in the U.S., leveraged technologies and processes to address behavioral health issues, including depression, anxiety, self-esteem, and coping skills, in a program that is bringing together school systems, behavioral healthcare specialists, and families, with telehealth-facilitated care and interventions throughout the time of the pandemic, which closed in-person opportunities for interventions in schools.

>   And the semifinalist teams have been innovating across a broad range of areas, from creating an interface for discrete genetics orders in the electronic health record (EHR), to leveraging machine learning to support palliative care, to developing effective readmissions interventions in the pediatric care setting, to reducing perioperative opioid exposure in the outpatient surgery sphere, to identifying as early as possible potential challenges for expectant mothers, to supporting first responders in law enforcement with expertise from mental health specialists, in order to deescalate encounters between law enforcement officers and individuals living with mental illness.

There has never been a time in which the leaders of patient care organizations have needed ideas for innovation in care delivery, care management, and operations, more than now. Fortunately for all of us, leaders at pioneering hospitals, medical groups, health systems, and health plans are helping to create innovations for the future.

Right now is an unprecedented time in terms of the challenges of all kinds facing healthcare leaders. But it’s also a very exciting time, as more and more leaders at pioneering organizations are grabbing the reins and creating innovation—and paving a pathway for everyone across the industry, in the process.

We, the editors at Healthcare Innovation want to congratulate all the winning teams and semifinalist teams in this year’s Innovator Awards Program; and we sincerely thank all those who submitted to the program. Please consider submitting to next year’s program; and in the meantime, in the next few days, the profiles will all be posted here on our website. Please keep an eye out for them. And please join us in congratulating all of these Innovators for the wonderful work they’re doing to advance outcomes and quality in our healthcare delivery system. We’re thrilled to be able to showcase these innovations—and these wonderful Innovators.

—the Editors of Healthcare Innovation

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