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June 02, 2021

Q2 2020 Quarterly Report: Innovation investments allow for turn-on-a-dime response

Q2 2020 Quarterly Report: Innovation investments allow for turn-on-a-dime response

Crystal Hinson Miller, chief philanthropy officer for Indiana University Health and president of the IU Health Foundation, is a national leader in healthcare philanthropy. Here she shares her experiences, insights and personal reflections as well as updates on IU Health Foundation's work.

Crystal Hinson Miller, chief philanthropy officer and for IU Health


Want to know what it looks like when philanthropy supports innovation? Take a look at what happened at IU Health after COVID-19 arrived in Indiana: Within two days of the first Indiana case, IU Health launched a virtual COVID-19 screening clinic.

As a result, while our peers across the nation were formulating plans, IU Health was helping thousands of Hoosiers understand whether they should self-isolate, get tested or seek medical care. By early May, IU Health professionals had provided virtual screenings for nearly 40,000 Hoosiers. As of August 10, it had provided a total of more than 60,000 screenings. (For the most up-to-date data, click here.)

I don’t mean to suggest that IU Health created a virtual screening program overnight. No one could have done that. But I do mean to point out that IU Health was in a position to move so quickly because it had already invested philanthropic dollars in a groundbreaking virtual care platform.

Launched in every emergency department in the IU Health system two years ago, the platform allows IU Health staff and peer recovery coaches to provide telehealth assistance to those suffering substance abuse and mental health disorders. By combining that innovative infrastructure with creative thinking, IU Health was able to pivot quickly and conduct virtual COVID-19 screenings. The team knew how to use the digital platform and knew what was possible, and therefore was able to shift gears literally overnight and put the platform to work for COVID-19 screenings.

They knew all of this because our donors support the IU Health team’s drive to be developers and innovators – rather than followers or late adopters – who create life-changing healthcare advances.

Certainly, IU Health and IU Health Foundation didn’t know a global pandemic was on the horizon when we partnered on the virtual care program, but we did know that fulfilling our vision of making Indiana one of the healthiest states in the nation requires investments in innovation.

The challenge in today’s results-driven culture is that innovation can be a slow process that carries risk. Some groundbreaking projects might lead to dead ends; others might take years to bear fruit. Still, we know that, when innovation pays off, it pays off big, as when thousands of people from cities, towns and rural areas across Indiana are screened for a virus shortly after its arrival in the Hoosier state.

The key is that, while our innovation investments often take the tangible form of purchases of equipment, programs and technology, what we’re really investing in is people. We’re investing in the big ideas they bring to a challenge, in the expertise they’ve gathered through years of experience, and in the collective power they gain through their collaborations. And when you invest in all of that, you really can’t go wrong. As IU Health Virtual Care Executive Director Ian McDaniel said recently, “If you back an innovative idea and it doesn’t come to fruition, you might feel like you backed the wrong opportunity. But when you invest in the right people, you’ll never back the wrong opportunity.”

So, in the days after COVID-19 hit Indiana and we were providing virtual screenings to thousands of people a week, it might have looked like we pulled off some sort of overnight miracle. It certainly looked like that to our national peers, who have been calling IU Health ever since and asking how on earth we did it. We were happy to explain that it wasn’t an overnight miracle that gave us such a head start. It was the innovative thinking and hard work that started years earlier through philanthropic dollars.

So, what does it look like when philanthropy supports innovation? It looks like donors helping to make Indiana one of the healthiest states in the nation, and it looks like IU Health at its best.

Building the future of healthcare.

Read more from IU Health Foundation President Crystal Hinson Miller about the impact of philanthropy in her letters to the community.

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Building the future of healthcare.

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