Having an innovative mindset in healthcare is in high demand right now. With healthcare costs skyrocketing and the U.S. having some of the highest per capita expenditures in the world, healthcare leaders are seeking ways to create more effective and efficient healthcare delivery models. COVID-19 has been a catalyst for innovation in healthcare, driving trends like telemedicine and remote monitoring.
Healthcare delivery innovation is necessary to find new ways to improve quality, enhance the patient experience, expand safety initiatives, increase efficiency, and reduce costs. New and creative ideas are also necessary to improve access to care and address the millions of uninsured.
Integrating innovation within the organization
Health organizations approach innovation in different ways. Some have created innovation centers as a central function to manage projects throughout the organization. Other organizations have integrated innovation throughout the organization. These organizations foster a culture of innovation so that smaller care teams are comfortable exploring new ideas and then, if successful, they can be implemented on a larger scale.
Today’s dynamic healthcare industry is driving innovation in key areas of care delivery.
1. Providing quality and cost transparency
When taking a look at how consumers begin their healthcare journey and how they find care, there have been numerous innovations around quality and cost transparency. One of the key challenges for the healthcare industry is that there is minimal competition. Organizations and tools like LeapFrog, Healthgrades, Choosing Wisely, and the CMS’ HCAHPS Survey are providing consumers and other stakeholders with information on provider quality and cost.
This information allows consumers to make smarter, value-based healthcare decisions, thereby creating competition and driving improvement in quality and cost reduction. ‘Find a Doctor’ search tools have begun to integrate key information for decision-making such as provider experience levels, out-of-pocket cost estimates, peer and consumer reviews, and surgical outcomes.
2. Healthcare navigation and population health analytics
Healthcare navigation companies have experienced considerable growth in the last few years. In such a complex industry, it makes sense that companies who take on risk (self-insured employers, ACOs, IDNs, etc.) would invest in services to make the healthcare journey easier on patients, which can improve outcomes and reduce healthcare spend.
Innovation in healthcare technology around online appointment scheduling is also a promising area. While a seemingly simple task, scheduling can be complicated and has been associated with long wait times and lack of appointment availability. Hopefully soon, consumers will be able to schedule a doctor’s appointment as easily as they go online to book a table at a restaurant!
Another developing area for innovation in healthcare has been around population health analytics. Recently, the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence has created more sophisticated segmentation to predict which individuals are at risk for various health issues. This allows for a more targeted approach to population health – getting the right healthcare, to the right person, at the right time.
Telemedicine had been a rising star in the innovative healthcare delivery process before the COVID-19 pandemic as a proven, cost-effective alternative to emergency department visits. Now, it has permanently made its mark on the way consumers receive care. Insurance companies, CMS, and employers have all made great strides to provide coverage for telemedicine, and now health systems are currently working to transform their temporary, pandemic-driven telemedicine solutions into permanent fixtures of the patient-provider experience.
4. Patient experience and technology
Imagine using your thumbprint to check in at the doctor’s office instead of filling out the same information all over again. Imagine agreeing on a new medication with your doctor and having it delivered to your doorstep that evening. Or imagine coming home from knee surgery and having a wearable device and videos that help guide you through rehabilitation exercises. There have been so many exciting healthcare delivery innovations that use technology to enhance the patient experience.
5. Care coordination through vertical and horizontal integration
Much of the waste in healthcare costs is due to poor care coordination and misaligned goals: repeat tests, lack of communication between care teams, revenue vs. clinical outcomes, etc. Healthcare leaders have looked to mergers and acquisitions to solve these problems, and the number of M&As this past decade is at a record high. The industry has seen pharmacies buying insurance companies, insurance companies buying analytics vendors, regional health systems combining to form ‘super systems’ – the types of partnerships created to satisfy strategic goals have been endless.
6. Shift toward outpatient settings
Outpatient settings, such as ambulatory care and surgical centers, clinics, physicians’ offices, and long-term care and rehabilitation facilities, are all becoming increasingly popular compared to acute inpatient hospital settings. While acute care will always be necessary, many of the reasons that people visit the ER could be triaged in lower-cost, outpatient settings. The increase in the number of people with one or more chronic diseases has also contributed to this shift.
7. Supporting chronic disease
The CDC states that 6 out of 10 adults in the U.S. have a chronic disease, and that number is growing. Chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability, and the leading drivers of the country’s $3.8 trillion spent on annual healthcare costs. Healthcare organizations are developing innovative healthcare delivery programs to support those with chronic disease, enabling them to better manage their condition. From managed care and emotional support programs to the latest in wearable technology, there is a heavy emphasis on building initiatives for this segment of the population right now.
8. Addressing nursing shortages
There is a shortage of nurses in the U.S., and with the large baby boomer generation just starting to enter retirement years, this shortage will most likely continue. Healthcare organizations are working on innovative solutions to extend the abilities of the nursing staff. One solution has been to adapt the current process with an increased number of midlevel practitioners (advance practice nurses, certified nurse midwives, physician assistants, and medical technologists).
Technological innovation can also help to solve this problem. Some examples include smart beds that monitor patient movement and remote monitoring devices that allow patients to be discharged sooner.
9. Disruptive innovation primary care
Teladoc, Iora Health, One Medical, Parsley Health, and many others – these companies are all disrupting the traditional way we interact with primary care. Some are focusing on a specific issue like creating a strong relationship with your doctor to having a flat, upfront fee for each visit. Disruptive innovations in healthcare demonstrated by these companies are filling gaps in the delivery of care and having a big impact on the transformation of the healthcare industry.
10. Improving patient flow
Innovative ideas are necessary to address bottlenecks in the patient discharge process, create efficient nursing task lists, reduce the time between care order and delivery of care, and numerous other critical challenges. Innovative solutions should be data-driven and evidence-based, giving way to high-quality healthcare delivery decisions.
Taking on tough challenges in healthcare
Innovation doesn’t come naturally to most people, and it also means different things to different people. It requires understanding the needs of various stakeholders, collaboration with multiple departments, and an attitude that strives for excellence but is willing to fail, which is not always something our society teaches us.
With a strong innovation mindset, you will be well-prepared to take on tough challenges in the healthcare industry. You will also be capable of working at a multitude of organizations such as health systems, health insurance companies, medical groups, managed care organizations, and vendors.
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The National Association of Latino Healthcare Executives (NALHE) and Dignity Health Global Education (DHGE) are aligned in their mission to increase access to high-quality education and equity in healthcare