Strategic Change in Healthcare: How Hospitals Are Pivoting to Meet New Challenges
The new millennium is two decades old, give or take, and the health care system has been spared little of the turbulence which has rocked the world in that time. At its core, health care will always be about treating illness and improving quality of life, and though medicine is more advanced than ever before, these advances also create new challenges. In today’s post, we’ll be looking at ways health care administrators are using insights from an online MBA to drive strategic change.
Listening to the Front Line
Ideally, administrators, physicians and other front line staff should work hand-in-glove to provide the best possible care for patients. In practice though, they are each in completely different lines of work, and this can lead to significant communication gaps. An administrator might describe their goals as becoming a market leader, meeting legal standards of care and satisfaction and ensuring that costs are kept to a manageable level without impacting service. Meanwhile, a doctor’s concerns are more likely to involve staffing levels, access to resources and their own working conditions.
Executing and maintaining strategic change means everyone has to buy in. Frame your agenda so that all stakeholders understand how they will benefit directly from achieving your goal. Make regular rounds with staff just as a doctor does with the patients under their care. What issues are hampering their day-to-day work? What do they want to see changed? How are new policies actually playing out on the front lines? An MBA program will provide a background in organizational communication; this is your chance to apply these lessons in the real world.
Managing New Technologies
Health care is, with the possible exception of the armed forces, the number one driver of scientific innovation. Physicians today are constantly implementing new technologies into their practice, with significant potential in areas like diagnostic medicine and symptom tracking. This openness to innovative tech can sometimes raise other challenges.
For example, you must consider how each new technology you bring into your facility will interface with your existing tools. Are there compatibility issues? Redundancies? While many suppliers sell what are intended to be full suites for health care use-cases, these suites often overlap with tools your staff are already using. It’s advisable to bring on consultants who can help you make sure you don’t run into interoperability problems.
You will also have to make sure that your staff members are comfortable with the new product before they must use it. Involving key staff in the purchasing process can head off trouble down the line, as they will be able to use their own expertise to identify potential drawbacks, and will also feel a sense of ownership of the decision.
Take this lesson from the business world:
- Determine and clearly define what needs any new tool actually meets.
- Weigh whether the benefits of using the tool will outweigh the work and costs required to use it.
- Determine which of the available options will provide the best fit.
Training/Retraining Existing Staff
The qualities that make a good health care provider never go out of style: strong teamwork, good communication, deep empathy and precise attention to detail. Any functional hospital, clinic or practice should already have plenty of staff with these qualities.
However, the technical and professional skills required to keep up with advances in the field demand constant maintenance and enhancement. Make the best of your people power by offering them training and professional development opportunities that will keep their skills current. In this way, you will benefit from the continuity and steadiness experienced long-term staff bring to the table without falling behind the curve.
Modeling the Change You Wish to See on a Macro Scale
It’s a weary cliché that you should seek to be the change you want to see in your environment, but it’s also a stone cold truth for health care leaders. If you want your staff to be open to change, you must be open to change. In fact, you must be the driver of change.
Providing accessible, high quality and patient-centric care now requires forming connections and partnerships across wide geographical regions. Between government stakeholders, insurance companies, technology partners and regional health care networks, today’s administrator must serve many masters, and the idea of a hospital as a unitary institution has become outmoded.
Be agile. Think in macro terms. Explore ideas and frameworks that cut against the grain. Set a high standard for executive performance. Above all, always keep your mission foremost in mind. It’s no coincidence that the challenges identified here are the very same we pose to every MBA student at Spring Arbor University.