The world is changing faster than hospitals and health systems can keep up. Progress has outpaced the capacity of 20th century operations.
But the problem is that there’s no one dedicated to helping hospital systems respond to change. The academics are preoccupied with writing articles. Clinicians are busy with service delivery. Administrators are trying to maintain the bottom line. Head down and walking in place, they all churn and burn.
Change, it seems, is not part of their calculus. So what’s needed?
Health care systems need a buffer zone for the adoption of new technology. A space to help the transition to a new way of doing things. A mindset and operational structure to guide the integration of new technology.
Innovation is happening all around us. Visionary Kevin Kelly suggested, “The nature of an innovation is that it will arise at a fringe where it can afford to become prevalent enough to establish its usefulness without being overwhelmed by the inertia of the orthodox system.”
What we need is a transformation space. A place to bring innovation from the fringe into the orthodox health system.
What’s needed for a transformation space?
So what’s needed for successful transformation within an organization? And how can a health system begin to futureproof itself. A few ideas:
Minds that see where medicine is headed. You need the right people. While entrepreneurs may develop the tools of the future, retrofitting local health care delivery for those tools requires an insider who understands both worlds. Consequently, you need vision with an understanding of how the world is changing. This includes data scientists, physicians, engineers, designers, brilliant creatives and others with the capacity to support this cataclysmic shift.
Recognition that this is an investment. Early efforts at innovation have focused on the application of fiscally viable technologies. But building for the future may involve early losses.
The best example is the short-sighted approach of the health system that fails to adopt telehealth infrastructure over fee-for-service concerns. As these systems go at risk under value-based arrangements expect the administrators in question to be caught with their pants down.
Realization that innovation needs the hospital system. Those making the tools to change the world need the patients and clinics that the hospitals have. The work toward making the medical world a better place will mandate that the two work together. Where they meet and what their relationship looks like falls under the purview of the transformation space.
Commitment to cultural adaptation. Vision is one thing. Execution of that vision is something different. The system needs a coordinated education and advocacy process that brings physicians and staff along in the process of transformation. Cultural adaptation is critical for the shifts ahead. Strategy, not technology, drives digital transformation.
Adaptation to a changing world is no longer an option
There’s a tendency to label initiatives with dated paradigms like institutes and centers. This is a mistake. Transformation of the magnitude needed to match technology’s growth calls for cross-silo integration. Change can’t happen in a center.
For hundreds of years change happened over a generation or two. Now it happens over months. This rate of technological progress calls for a reappraisal of how hospitals and health systems transition. Adaptation to this changing world is no longer an option. It’s imperative.
More on this as ideas evolve.
Image via Paul Morris