Leading Health Care Improvement through Innovation

Thursday, June 21, 2018 | Joseph Sasson

As MedAxiom’s Joel Sauer recently wrote, talking about the speed of change in health care has become cliché. We all know how fast it’s truly moving, and more often than not I see incredible ideas overlooked and not considered because organizations either: 1) Can’t handle the pace of change, or 2) They’re awaiting the next generation of a solution when the latest might have just been released. From my experience, some organizations continue the wait-and-see stance through the next couple of product iterations as well. While there is obvious value in tried-and-true solutions, organizations that wait too long to embrace change and innovation may find that they are being left behind.

For those who really want to provide excellent care today and stay ahead of the curve, there must be a level of organizational acceptance for treating the business as a performance lab instead of expecting an environment in which no decisions are ever regretted. To be leading edge, a program must be comfortable with innovation; in fact, it should seek out and vigorously implement new innovations to stay ahead of the pack.

Organizations wanting to be successful innovation leaders must:

  • Identify which areas of the business should be targeted for innovations.
  • Identify the best partner and change agent to provide the chosen product/service and educate the staff on proper implementation and execution.

Identifying which areas should be targeted for innovation largely depends on how focused the organization is on clinical quality, revenue generation, expense reduction, growing and maintaining market share, and other pain points. Making sure the decision is based on data and receives support from clinical, administrative, and financial teams at the needs identification stage is the precursor to appropriate partner/vendor/tool selection. Having these teams create the product evaluation checklist together keeps everyone aligned throughout the selection process and provides focus for a vendor to create their organizational pitch. Most offerings have multiple value propositions. Helping to guide the vendor as to your main pain points will create a pitch for your organization that is 90% focused on your pain points and only 10% focused on the additional value beyond your immediate needs. This refinement makes the process better for people on both sides of the table, and will better help you to select your new partner.

In reality there is no shortage of opportunities for an organization to pursue, yet a strong clinical and financial case must be present. Separating the want-to-haves and need-to-haves has to be done early to focus on core patient and business outcomes. The goals must also be future facing. For example, in today’s world the reimbursement for things such as connected care (e.g., discharge solutions, chronic care management, remote patient monitoring, remote device monitoring, etc.) might be in the tens of thousands (instead of millions) each month. In the future, connected care is expected to be a large component of health care. Looking at the anticipated effects of technology and where the market is heading should help drive decisions today. Early stage investors don’t invest in a start-up business because they think it’s going to provide them with current-day cash flow – they invest in Coca Cola, IBM or utility companies for that. Start-up investors take a look at technology and make their own judgment of how big it could be in the future based on current market factors, demographic trends, and how users (aka: physicians and patients) will utilize the technology going forward. Industry must innovate in a way that incents them to research, develop, and implement tomorrow’s solution today.

Health care organizations are incented to provide care today, as well as optimize their clinical and financial outcomes. In doing so, they must also take a look at how the world will change and how that will influence tomorrow’s care provision. To paraphrase Wayne Gretzky’s famous quote, “You have to skate to where the puck is going to be.”

Take a look at your projects — are you an innovative organization?  Do you want to be?  What does your project mix look like?  A goal is to make sure that you have some innovative projects included in your portfolio of blocking-and-tackling projects. You should be cognizant that those projects will take you into the future, that they involve not just product replacement, but are entirely new product offerings. As a way of breaking some ground with a lower degree of organizational tolerance, you could implement evolutionary product offerings that are less risky—such as moving from traditional Holter monitors to 4-in-1 devices that can operate as various types of monitors. Those types of projects require smaller amounts of behavior and process change on your evolutionary journey.

Not every organization has the desire or capacity to be the most innovative on the block, but we all have to keep moving forward to advance the care our patients receive. As you look at your current calendar, workload, or project list, think about how you are driving care forward and what evolutionary ideas you can implement to benefit patients, the business, and engagement in your organization. As always, we are here to help—let us know your questions, concerns and ideas on implementing innovation.

MedAxiom’s blog post is published every Thursday at www.medaxiom.com/blog



Illustration: Lee Sauer

About the Author
Joseph Sasson

Joseph Sasson, Ph.D. is Executive Vice President of MedAxiom Ventures. Joe's work includes helping MedAxiom members to access the technologies and solutions they need most to effectively run their organizations and prepare themselves for the future of value-based care. Simultaneously, Joe works with dozens of companies in med-tech, device, pharma, imaging, cath labs/ASCs, and health IT to deliver economic value propositions and strategies to help companies accelerate commercial growth.

To contact, email: jsasson@medaxiom.com

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