Five Imperatives for Now to Succeed in the Future

February 14, 2018 | Article

There is a lot of dialogue among health care industry experts describing the change in the industry as disruptive, revolutionary, paradigm shift, transforming, evolutionary, or innovative. Regardless of the adjective we use, we know that change is happening!

With all this change there is uncertainty as to how organizational leaders should move forward on strategic initiatives. As you talk to industry colleagues you will be advised to focus on these traditional issues: revenue cycle; service line assessments; quality improvement; and operational efficiency through lean principles, etc. While those staples are still critically important, we want to give you five thought leader issues to ponder for success in the future.

1. Invest in the development of a comprehensive customer experience strategy

The patient experience today in health care does not live up to the customer experience expectations of consumers, and still has a way to go for improvement. Outside of the direct nursing and physician care giver experience, the patient experience in the past has been very fragmented.

Since health care does not have a specific target market, customer experience should come through many channels:

  • Focus on pricing transparency, as more consumers move to high deductible health plans they will be incurring more financial spend earlier in the health care delivery process and are going to demand to understand more about your prices
  • Focus on mobility and convenience, today’s consumer’s lives are mobile and they are going to get more comfortable with their health care being delivered through mobile channels
  • Implement a system wide training program on delivering customer service, engaging your employees in understanding the importance of great customer service will separate the strong providers from the weak

2. Embrace data. Mobilize data. Secure data.

It seems like every other Twitter feed and LinkedIn post talks about how “Big Data” is changing every industry, and it is true. It is estimated that medical data will double every 73 days by 2020! Our current processes in health care are not designed to handle and utilize that volume of data—and a lot of that data is going to be extraordinarily important in patient diagnosis and care plan design, but also in managing the business of health care. As a result, organizations need to embrace this data by redefining the expectations of how employees will work with patients through this data.

This data explosion is going to cause systems to re-think how physicians and employees access this data, but it does not stop there, they will also have to re-think how they mobilize this data with their patients. The “wearables” movement has the ability to link organizations to their patients like never before, and this will become more and more relevant as the move to population health evolves. Finally, organizations will need to continuously monitor and enhance data security protocols as we know health care will be a target for hackers.

3. Reduce variation through statistical modeling

Remember your statistics class in college and how standard deviation measured the amount of variation within a set of data points? A low standard deviation meant that the data points were close to the mean and a high standard deviation meant that the data points were much more dispersed. In analyzing productivity, cost related data and outcomes, health care providers have a much higher standard deviation…and it needs to improve. This higher standard deviation causes too much variation in our system of care. This variation is something that both government and commercial payers are not willing to pay for anymore.

How do we do this? First, we start with outcomes and clinical standardization, embracing best practices and delivery models needs to be led by physicians. Second, we need to better understand our best outcomes. Correlating best outcomes to questions like: What was the patient’s symptoms? Chronic conditions? Socioeconomic characteristics? The answer to these types of questions will help us better prepare your patients for quicker and more positive outcomes.

Finally, as payers are moving to pay for value, a better understanding of our cost structure and resource utilization needs to occur. In looking at staffing productivity with providers, again there is too much variation from one system to the other. A better understanding of this variation will help systems improve their scheduling systems, volume fluctuations, and training programs for individuals who are not helping you achieve the outcomes you need.

4. Capital Asset Investment Philosophy

Health care organizations need to take a step back and reassess their capital asset investment strategy. In the past and today, the answer has been to invest in physical building space. But here are a couple of reasons why we should reconsider this.

There are a number of technologies like Real Time Locations System Software (RTLS), and Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID) that are helping organizations become much more proficient at process improvement and resource utilization. The ability of these systems is leading to significant improvements in patient flows and helping to significantly open up practitioners’ schedules. Operating without these systems in the past led to decisions to expand space and add resources. These requests were accommodated through capital investments. Investing in these new technologies and process enhancements can create a very valuable asset in health care:  capacity in our current physical settings and amongst our resources.

In addition, as health care organizations develop a customer experience strategy, the question will be, “if we invest, should it be in real estate, or mobile applications and communication vehicles?” Ponder on the banking industry operations:  the volume of traffic through banks today is considerably lower than what it was 10 to 20 years ago. Will health care be any different? As organizations deploy more and more mobile applications to connect to consumers it is highly probable that we will see less foot traffic through health care buildings.

5. Encourage Diversity of Thought

I believe one of the toughest challenges health care leaders of today are facing is the question of, “what new information do I need to consider to lead my organization into the future?” The pace of change is faster than ever before and the type of new payment models are significantly challenging in regards to how to migrate your organization from volume to value. In order to successfully traverse through this major transition, strong leadership will be paramount.

In order for organizational leaders to navigate this terrain they are going to need to surround themselves with diversity of thought (i.e., people who have not had a seat at the table before with different perspectives). To challenge the status quo and the ability to take your organization into the future of health care—a paradigm shift in thought leadership is needed. The organizations that reassess the decision makers and the decision-making process have the opportunity to truly change the trajectory of health care cost and utilization within their respective markets. 

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