Healthcare Innovation: Moving from Stewardship to Leadership

September 9, 2012
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With the close of the subdued Democratic National Convention this week, there was noticeably scant mention of healthcare reform.  In light of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in favor of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), perhaps President Obama has checked this off his list.  Given the compelling need to drive cost out of the current bloated system, one might argue, however, that now – more than ever – healthcare reform should be a topic for discussion.  And as With the close of the subdued Democratic National Convention this week, there was noticeably scant mention of healthcare reform.  In light of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in favor of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), perhaps President Obama has checked this off his list.  Given the compelling need to drive cost out of the current bloated system, one might argue, however, that now – more than ever – healthcare reform should be a topic for discussion.  And as Alan Zuckerman, President of Health Strategies and Solutions, states, “(in this new era with new imperatives).. like many other industries, the call to action is how do we do more, or even the same, with less? And with the artificial prop of 5 to 10 percent increases in rates and spending no longer guaranteed, how do we maintain the vitality of our organizations?”

Living in a prosperous economy with profitable reimbursement rates, Zuckerman argues, shields healthcare companies, in particular, non-profit entities, from innovation.   In addition, he points out that the traditional terminology reserved for healthcare leadership – administrator – connotates stewardship versus active management.  In order to tackle this challenge head on, Zuckerman suggests, “busting the status quo, challenging long-held assumptions, envisioning the possibilities when uncertainty is converted to action and forging a new path – that’s what true innovation in healthcare could look like.”  While this can be a daunting charge, “healthcare executives must recognize that their organizations’ cultures are at odds with this new posture and work to reshape the cultures to make them more adaptable, flexible, risk-bearing and (centrally focused on innovation).”  Check out this previous post for more examples.

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For organizations having ‘played between the lines’ in the past, how do they adopt this new mindset?  According to Zuckerman, “Peter Drucker’s Harvard Business Review article, “The Discipline of Innovation,” identifies seven sources of innovation, four that are internal — unexpected occurrences, incongruities, process needs, and industry and market changes — and three sources that are external — demographic changes, changes in perception and new knowledge. He suggests that “an innovation has to be simple, and it has to be focused. It should only do one thing…Above all, innovation is work rather than genius.”

Furthermore, he lays out the following five actions to launch the innovation journey:

  • Rally senior leaders
  • Reexamine and begin to modify your organization’s culture to be more risk-bearing by encouraging experiments and pilots and create a non-punitive environment
  • Make innovation a theme of day-to-day operations
  • Consider structural changes in the form of a Chief Innovation Officer or committee to support innovation
  • Last but not least and my favorite – JUST DO IT!

A leader in the innovation movement, Kaiser Permanente has created a formal consultancy aimed at deploying design thinking to improve the care experience for both the patient and healthcare provider.  Listen in to find out more…