The future starts now

The future starts now

Although transformation requires a long-term vision and commitment, the immense challenges facing the healthcare sector also call for immediate action. Creating urgency does not mean abandoning principles in favor of short-lived solutions; but it does mean leaders should instill their strategies with a sense of pace.

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Businessman and woman in a serious discussion

Janet Davidson – Deputy Minister, Alberta Ministry of Health, Canada; Dr. Kevin Smith – President and CEO, St Joseph’s Health System, Canada

Although transformation requires a long-term vision and commitment, the immense challenges facing the healthcare sector also call for immediate action. Creating urgency does not mean abandoning principles in favor of short-lived solutions; but it does mean leaders should instill their strategies with a sense of pace.

Companies in faster moving industries are accustomed to adapting swiftly to changes in customer tastes, and healthcare must also become more ‘consumerized,’ as market forces start to play a greater influence. Any private business that offered outmoded products or services would soon face rapid decline, and health providers are no different.

KPMG’s crowdsourcing research of healthcare leaders shows that 35 percent believe fundamental change is required within their organization, but only 19 percent feel their institution is 'very ready' to deliver this change. Similarly, although 57 percent assert that workforce efficiencies would bring significant savings, just 45 percent are confident that their organization has the processes to achieve such efficiencies.1

These internal anxieties about organizational readiness reflect a wider fear of change that is not necessarily justified. Any concerns over public opposition to the closing of hospitals or new procedures, should be counterbalanced by the huge desire of citizens to get more involved in healthcare, as evidenced by the surge in health websites and associated social media discussions. Politicians have traditionally been averse to large-scale change. However, in many systems, the situation has become so grave that governments can no longer avoid taking bold decisions about healthcare models.

Case study - An eye on the long game: Geisinger Health System (US)

Geisinger is rightly seen as an example of long-term health system development. It started 100 years ago in Danville, PA, US and from the beginning of the 21st century developed a vision to ensure that the system would be viable and sustainable over time.

Geisinger is a nonprofit, physician-led, integrated health system serving an area with 2.6 million people in 43 counties of rural northeastern and central Pennsylvania through three acute/tertiary/quaternary hospitals and an alcohol/chemical dependency treatment center. It is a multispecialty group practice employing more than 740 physicians and 50 practice sites including 40 community practice clinics.

The 220,000-member Geisinger Health Plan offers group, individual, and Medicare coverage and contracts with more than 18,000 independent providers including 90 hospitals. It is an organization known for innovation through its Geisinger Center for Health Research.

In the early 21st century they started to:

  • build clinical programs as multidisciplinary service lines
  • expand their clinical market
  • establish a center for health research and promoting the science of translational research
  • develop an entrepreneurial arm.

In 2006 having achieved those priorities, the Geisinger team worked collaboratively to identify four strategic priorities for the next five years. These were:

  • quality — striving for perfection
  • expanding the clinical market — providing care that is convenient and close to where patients live and work
  • innovation — developing leading edge methods in patient care, research education and technology
  • securing the legacy — recruiting, education and training our employees as the key to our future.

In 2011, the Geisinger System Report outlined how it was going to build on the strength and success of recent years to engage in transformation:

"Our unique model and pedigree have enabled us to assume accountability for coordinating and organizing care in order to reduce variability, improve outcomes, align incentives and decrease costs. Change is not a choice it’s a necessity in today’s environment. Many organizations have a hard time letting go of what they know... Change in their market, their structure, or their way of looking at their mission — is terrifying and often avoided….and this must be the most daunting of all – is that in order to reengineer healthcare to better serve the patient and keep costs under control you have to do everything – everything differently." - Dr. Glenn Steele, President and CEO, Geisinger Health System

Footnote

1KPMG’s global healthcare crowdsourcing research project was conducted from March to May, 2014 involving 555 members representing more than 50 countries.

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