66 ISE Magazine | www.iise.org/ISEmagazine
What inspired you to pursue a career in healthcare?
My passion for biology and a deep love for teaching were the driving
forces that steered me toward a career in healthcare. The opportunity
to contribute to a profession that’s dedicated to the well-being of others
deeply resonated with me. It felt like a meaningful path and allowed me
to immerse myself in the world of science while making a dierence in
peoples lives.
When did you first realize healthcare processes need
to be improved for better patient outcomes?
During my time in medical school, it became evident during clinicals
that our healthcare system is deeply awed. The complexities and
numerous steps it takes to provide care made it incredibly challenging to
do what was best for patients. Despite being taught that the system was
designed to support us in delivering optimal care, the reality often felt far
removed from this ideal.
When I encountered Masaaki Imai’s book (Kaizan: The Key To Japan’s
Competitive Success), I found a new perspective. I had the realization that
the way things were being done didn’t have to be the norm. Imai’s work
highlighted the possibility of a more disciplined approach, emphasizing
that humans are the process and have the autonomy to drive systemic
Tell how you came to start KaiNexus
and describe its mission.
After reading Imai’s book, I realized that the potential for impactful
change through small, incremental kaizen initiatives could actively
engage residents in quality improvement. With this realization, I
discovered a need for a structured platform to facilitate and manage
these initiatives. At rst, I experimented with email but found it led to
That’s when I had the idea for a software solution a tool to organize
and manage these improvement initiatives. It became evident that the
healthcare system required signicant enhancements to better serve its
purpose of healing patients. Our initial mission was to help healthcare
Over time, our mission expanded beyond healthcare to embrace a
more universal and positive message: spread continuous improvement.
This evolution has been at the core of KaiNexus ever since.
What are a few of the key changes and
advancements you see on the horizon for
healthcare in the next few years?
First, one of the crucial shifts we urgently need revolves around
aligning incentive structures with the core values of our society.
Naturally, the ongoing consolidation of the healthcare system is
creating constraints at the patient’s bedside, fostering a culture where
practicing defensive medicine often overshadows decisions based on
the patient’s best interests. Another pressing concern is the fractured
relationship between patients and providers, which creates a lot of
unwanted consequences. There’s a need to discuss and explore
these critical issues, but here are a few noteworthy advancements
that I see on the horizon for healthcare.
With Greg Jacobson
Greg Jacobson is the CEO and co-founder of
KaiNexus. He graduated from Washington
University in St. Louis in 1997 with a bachelor’s
degree in biology and attended Baylor College of
Medicine from 1997 to 2001. From 2001 to 2004,
he completed a residency in emergency medicine
at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where
he stayed on as faculty. While at Vanderbilt,
he observed and researched operational
ineciencies and unrealized improvement
opportunities that led to the founding of
KaiNexus in 2009. Jacobson is co-author of
“Kaizen: A Method of Process Improvement
in the Emergency Department,” published
in Academic Emergency Medicine. Outside of
KaiNexus, he still can be found working a few
shifts in the emergency room every month,
spending time with his wife, daughter and two
labs, and strumming his guitar. He will serve as
a keynote speaker at the Healthcare Systems
Process Improvement Conference, Feb. 13-15 in
Atlanta (iise.org/HSPI).
February 2024 | ISE Magazine 67
Undoubtedly, the potential for AI in healthcare is
immense. The opportunity to identify patterns in patient
complaints and analyze objective data like vital signs,
laboratory results and imaging with AI will revolutionize
how practitioners work. What’s crucial is ensuring that
AI becomes a practical and user-friendly tool for those
in the eld, extending and supporting the capabilities of
healthcare professionals.
Beyond AI, there’s also this need for patients to play
a more active role in taking ownership of their health
rather than passively expecting healthcare to be
delivered to them. This shift toward patient engagement
and advocacy will signicantly improve outcomes
for individuals, empowering them to navigate the
healthcare landscape more eectively.
What do you hope to pass along in your
keynote speech and also learn from the
professionals at HSPI?
To inuence intentionally is to lead. There’s a need for
executives and leaders to empower front-line professionals
to practice continuous improvement actively. Contrary to
common belief, this isn’t hard work that requires advanced
degrees or excessive eort. What it does require is
authenticity and a disciplined approach that if we continue
to be reactive instead of proactive, we will continue to get
what we get.
In my keynote, I’m calling for executive leadership to take
advantage of behavioral and habit science. This knowledge
can be instrumental in fostering a culture of continuous
improvement within organizations. My goal is to urge
leaders to seize this opportunity and proactively shape a
culture that encourages innovation and improvement.
I’m also eager to learn from the professionals at HSPI.
Their experiences and insights are invaluable. I look
forward to understanding their challenges, learning from
their successes and exchanging ideas.
In your experience, how do such
conferences help healthcare pros
share ideas and make connections?
Conferences like these help healthcare professionals
realize they’re not alone in their experiences and
challenges. We’re all navigating similar hurdles, whether
at an individual or organizational level. HSPI allows us to
elevate our thinking and learn from each other’s journeys.
By coming together, we’re actively cultivating a growth
mindset. It’s about expanding our perspectives, thinking
beyond the connes of our daily routines, and discovering
innovative ways to perform our roles more eectively.
Ultimately, it enables us to evolve and drive positive
change collectively within the healthcare landscape.
Interview by IISE sta
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