I often hear leaders talk about the need for innovations in healthcare and how this space is now ripe for it. However, more often than not, it is easier said than done. New strategies and technologies, for instance, can be hard to ideate, and even tougher to implement at a pan-organization level. As we can see during the ongoing value-based transformation, healthcare is facing major challenges. Maybe, because people who were going to play a pivotal role in this transformation were not prepared for it.
The need for taking one step at a time
The foremost thing is to understand that most big changes do not happen in a short span. Like other sectors, healthcare too should follow the systematic approach of:
- Leading change management
- Defining the problem and the solution
- Designing the prospective solution (conceptualizing ideas)
- Developing the actual solution
- Implementing the solution
- Following-up and updating
Spending a considerable amount of time at each step is critical. Rushing too fast may reap quick benefits for a while, but may not always improve an organization’s operational success in the long run.
Build strategies as per your needs
Needs of different organizations vary by leaps and bounds. While curbing costs could be the aim of innovation for one facility, making life easier for their providers could be the moot issue for another. And it depends on multiple things一 patient preferences, demographics, the scale of the organization, among many others.
No two organizations can ever imitate each others’ models of innovation. Leaders need to have brainstorming sessions with their employees regarding the specific solutions they need, the technological models that will suit them, the investment they are willing to make, among many other factors. Unless each element is weighed in, achieving desired results may become a tricky affair. Few things leaders need to consider before zeroing-in on a particular strategy could be:
- How much structural changes the organization would have to make to implement the solution?
- How would it impact clinical outcomes and by what margin?
- How would it change the lives of their care teams?
- What would be the ROI on the investment made?
If an organization does not have answers to these questions, rushing to a conclusion would not be the best idea.
What is the recipe for a successful transformation?
- Empowering primary care physicians and teams at the point of care: Healers should be able to empathize with and therefore, influence the patient by enhancing his/her knowledge of the patient’s specific vulnerabilities, family, community, and social risk factors. They need to have all of this information at the point of care so that their time is spent with patients and not on screens.
- Developing lasting relationships between primary care physicians & patients: Trust is very important when it comes to a patient-physician relationship. It needs to have a seamless bi-directional communication to thrive. Additionally, the care teams need to keep the patients and their families in the loop at all times to promote shared decision making.
- Developing a team-based model of primary care delivery: Advancing this transformation will need the care teams to work as a united front. Borrowing key elements of some successful models such as Medical Homes, a team-based approach should consist of the key stakeholders that support patient care– primary care physicians and their clinical care teams, care managers, and hospital care teams, but with the patient at the center. They need to be supported by powerful analytics and access to the technology that simplifies the day-to-day job.
- Modernizing the practices and creating a win-win situation for providers, payers, and patients: Bringing the stakeholders in the healthcare space on the same page so that they collaboratively tackle the challenges and achieve the triple aim of healthcare. This will need clarity of goals from payers and providers end and patients taking the ownership of their health. Again, this requires a seamless communication to drive the entire process.
How will technology play a role in this transformation?
About two decades back, care facilities concentrated most of their efforts on emergency cases and patients who were to be seen on a particular day. Their schedules were synchronized in a manner to facilitate that approach of imparting care. With changing times, their focus shifted to providing holistic care and taking patient experience into account. We are now seeing a tectonic shift in how organizations approach care delivery一 patient-centric, preventive, and data-driven.
Care teams work tremendously hard each day of the year to provide patients with the care they need. But do the technologies they use assist them in the best possible manner? How can the use of technology be optimized? This is the question leaders need to focus on. While it is important to keep a check on the latest technologies disrupting healthcare, it’s more important to analyze what those technologies can do for your organization.
We have all sorts of technological advancements and applications flooding healthcare. Machine Learning is transforming the way we look at managing population health, the Internet of Things has enabled providers to stay in touch with their patients at all times, and Big Data analytics has been at the forefront of delivering evidence-based care. Amidst so many options, it’s up to the organizational leadership to decide which solution they deem suitable for their needs.
Data is going to be key in this age of intelligence
The ultimate purpose of taking data is to provide a basis for action or a recommendation for action.
- W. Edwards Deming
For many organizations, data is still a vastly underutilized entity. Organizations need data to advance targeted care interventions. Providers need data to have just the right context every time they see a patient一 something which I refer to as a “data-first” approach. Ideally, organizations should ensure data flow in a very specific manner:
- Feeding back data into the system
Several organizations limit the use of data to very few domains. Though most of the organizations have a system in place for data integration, very few actually have concrete strategies for specific use-cases such as patient-engagement, referral management, risk-stratification, et al. Lack of initiatives to support clinical decision-making or willingness to try innovations is not always the most advisable decision today.
Providers need to look beyond the clinic walls. Equipped with the right data, they can respond better to medical and community-based needs of patients. They can also explore the underlying trends to uncover vital answers related to patients’ health if they have actionable data at their disposal. Centralized access to data is also critical for stakeholders to reduce their dependability on limited few employees in the IT department of their organization.
Catalysts of healthcare transformation need to be empowered
If you meet a person living in Midtown Manhattan, chances are they would care a little less about healthcare costs and more for the waiting period. A person in need of palliative care would want to see their provider smiling at all times. A lung-patient would be concerned about the air quality in their region more than anyone else. It’s all about understanding their needs and building your strategies accordingly. A few years back, a study revealed that something as superficial as abstract artworks hung on hospital waiting rooms can increase anxiety in patients一 and in fact, they tend to prefer landscapes scenes more.
What does that tell us? We need to identify the minutest of patient needs. To bring about concrete changes, patients’ pain points need to be heard. Similarly, bringing care teams in the loop is equally important. Sharing key insights and building collaborative strategies is one of the most basic things they need to focus on.
Organizations need to identify stakeholders across the care continuum who can act as catalysts of change. They need physician champions, staff members, and patients to come forward. Unless the ideas come from people who have lived with the problems, solving existing issues in the care delivery system would be a tough nut to crack.
The road ahead
The first modern air-conditioning system was developed to control humidity in a printing press. The first telephone was thought of as merely an updated version of telegraphs. Innovation doesn’t necessarily follow a set pattern. Small things lead to revolutionary changes but only if they are given enough time to develop and a collaborative approach is adopted. Disruptions in healthcare will reinvent how we look at care delivery. It’s high time leadership take note of the changing needs of their patients and providers, and move forward with the right strategies in the changing times of today.
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