“The challenge we face is that even with the power to imagine the future, it is difficult to overcome the demands of the present.”
– The Optimist’s Telescope: Thinking Ahead in a Reckless Age by Bina Venkataraman
As we approach the next decade, and despite our healthcare industry challenges right in front of us, there is ample reason to be optimistic about our technology future. Consumerism, digital technology and data intelligence are delivering disruptive forces for the path ahead.
This journey and alike set of disruptive forces ring true to with related service industries. We in healthcare are behind other industries but moving ahead at an accelerated pace – the nature of care delivery, our regulatory/payment complexity and fragmented delivery system have held us back. The year 2020 and the decade ahead present a tipping point for change.
So, let’s push ourselves, and the clients and patients we serve, to look beyond the demands of the present to imagine and embrace a better future. Below are my optimist’s technology road signs of why this decade’s journey will bring about real change.
- Our industry is embracing innovation, taking more risks to create the future. Historically, healthcare assumed a conservative posture for new technology and let others take the early stage risks while waiting to deploy what worked elsewhere. A new mindset has arrived. We’re witnessing an accelerating growth of innovation centers, or “a business within a business” attitude. At last count, over 50 major innovation centers are up and running, demonstrating the willingness of health systems to invest in new ideas. These centers are constructed with the right combination of new technology partnerships, dedicated product/service teams and a cultural philosophy akin to new startups. Once established, centers engage in the incubation and validation of new ideas, ultimately transforming first within by building a bridge from their current state services to a digital model of the future. This strategy generates “more offense than defense” in an increasingly competitive environment for care by creating opportunities for growth and a differentiated or first mover/market advantage.
- Organizations are becoming data-driven, shifting from retrospective to predictive decision-making. If the story of the last decade is a narrative about deploying healthcare technology infrastructure, the one ahead will be about data. New analytics/AI insights will introduce unforeseen levels of productivity, medical discovery and patient-centered care (smarter, more empathic). This change requires both a new mindset and capability, with mindset being the harder of the two to advance. It starts by embracing the fact and measurement-based decision-making mindset as a cultural norm and continues with supporting the belief that all healthcare workers can make a difference using data to empower change to the edge of the organization (and for patients). On capabilities, organizations need to systemically acquire data for a deeper understanding of how their organizations operate and for the health-plus-experience preferences of their patients and communities. This begins by sustaining the trust of patients/consumers through robust transparency and consent as a prerequisite step. Witness the battles and struggles for consumer data through the partnerships forming for the collection of health data with Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Apple.
- Pivoting to customer centricity, the future of healthcare is being shaped from the outside in. Patients and consumers are demanding higher levels of access and service – when and where they want them – at equal standing with their everyday experiences in banking, hospitality, retail and transportation. In response, a significant and often reluctant patient-centered shift is underway within health systems – a necessary change to compete in the growth markets of retail/virtual care and chronic disease management segments. The promise of patent-centeredness is about encouraging changes in patient/ consumer behavior and empowering individuals to make informed choices about their health (both wellness and guidance for lifelong disease). It’s also about creating better access, choice and value – anticipating, more than just responding to, patient needs and using digital technology offering real engagement in their day-to-day health/wellness goals. Placing patients at the center of care will alter the structure and delivery of care in the decade ahead.
- Following other industries to the cloud is a fundamental shift in our computing platforms. The cloud embodies next-generation computing capabilities, producing step-function advantages in scalability, cost, security, data analytics and access to consumer-facing technologies. This is the technology sandbox for digital health: The emerging $8 billion industry is developing here. Gartner predicts that “organizations with a high percentage of IT spending dedicated to the cloud will become the recognized digital leaders in the future.” Agreed. And, this includes working to migrate the current portfolio of premise-based solutions to cloud-based, software as a service (SaaS) offerings. For example, ERP systems are a great place to start. Health systems are advised to get to the cloud sooner rather than later and take their data with them.
- An openness for cross-industry collaboration and technology partnerships allows for learning what works from the experience of others. The healthcare transformation ahead will be unique and yet like other service industries. Availing ourselves to the cross-industry experience and talent is a pathway for change acceleration (and avoiding mistakes). It is also about co-creating new solutions with ties to health technology incubators (i.e. Matter), forming technology partnerships and engaging deeply with communities we serve. To be successful, we will need to hone our collaboration and teaming skills. Overall, the endgame is building a broader ecosystem with technology as its new “brick and mortar.”
Be an optimist and cut a path to find time to step away from the demands of the present. Act with a future-oriented mindset. Imagine each step as a building block for change. It’s an amazing time to be in our industry.