And yet there’s something to be said for the unique mix of factors that seal U.S. health care professionals inside of what Eric Topol, author of The Creative Destruction of Medicine, calls a “medical cocoon” — while an increasingly digital world churns just outside it.
Today, of course, hanging onto the status quo isn’t merely old-fashioned. It’s dangerous — literally, in many cases, as evidenced by an ever-growing list of reforms and mandates requiring that health care organizations get on board now, or lose out on major financial incentives over the next decade.
Executives who see new technology a means of doing more with less (and improving outcomes in the process) will be the most successful. But it’s not an easy to shift to manage; there are simply too many stakeholders involved.
To name a few, some of the tech-related challenges health care organizations now face include:
- A higher bar for demonstration of “meaningful use” of electronic health records (EHRs) and eventually, associated financial penalties for organizations that fail to meet criteria.
- Implementation of ICD-10 codes by October 2013 — which means going from 17,000 to a massive 140,000 codes, necessitating re-training across multiple departments.
- Data-sharing challenges, from IT implementation to departmental communication, as health care shifts to a performance-driven model more reliant on complex metrics and “informatics.”
- Pressure to use social media not just as a marketing tool, but a way to increase patient engagement and satisfaction; a 2011 YouGov Health care study indicated that 81 percent of consumers thought a hospital with a strong social presence was more likely to be cutting edge.
- A new emphasis on leveraging patient-supplied data to improve care through networks like The Collaborative Chronic Care Network.
Leaders who can’t keep up will fall behind — and in this environment, so will profits. How do you inspire your executive team and employees to embrace innovation?
Articulate the Long-Term Vision
Although the U.S. health care system has been slow to adopt some of the basic technologies out there, like EHRs, organizations like Kaiser Permanente do provide a progressive example. Kaiser is the largest HMO to cut paper out of clinical settings entirely in favor of EHRs and, according to its own data, has improved outcomes –
e.g., a 24 percent reduction in heart attacks in Northern California patients over the age of 30.
But even Kaiser Permanente faced stubborn resistance, a drop in productivity and multiple IT challenges along the way. Leaders have to pave the way for success by clearly and consistently communicating the long-term play — instead of positioning technological change as a top-down mandate.
Get Buy-In by Emphasizing Benefits
Talk openly about the real reasons innovation is challenging — perhaps by deploying key leaders in various areas of your organization to discuss the issues and communicate the long-term benefits. Fewer errors, lower costs, better patient outcomes, a more efficient work environment — these are but a few.
Empowering key leaders to inspire their own employees will be key. For example, doctors resist Internet and mobile technology and data-sharing because of perceived privacy issues and worry about malpractice suits. Managers find the sheer investment– in terms of cash, people and IT — is daunting, to say the least. But ultimately, technology will actually alleviate many of these issues. You must explain how.
Develop Leaders From Within
This last point is an especially salient one. With all the regulatory and financial pressure from above, one thing no leader can afford to do is fail to develop the talent they will need to spearhead — and support — innovation on a day-to-day basis. Putting in place more effective leadership evaluation systems is step one. The next step, of course, is ensuring they’re engaged and prepared with effective, ongoing leadership development.
Adopting a more welcoming approach to innovation isn’t a one-time challenge — technology, and science, evolves rapidly. You’ll need leaders on your side who can do the same.