One top takeaway from a recent conference focused on the need for health systems—not just startups—to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset. “The path to growth will be a roller coaster. Stay the course,” panelists encouraged.
Yet for many health system leaders, making the move to a more modern approach to risk-taking puts them in unfamiliar territory. For these leaders, gaining increased comfort with risk comes with tying risk to mission. However, patient safety should never be placed at risk. Leaders need to embrace risk in terms of how their organizations provide high-quality care to their patients.
Outsourced, remote and tech-enabled care can expand the guardrails of patient safety by applying new modalities that support limited bedside care resources while enhancing access for people beyond the four walls of a facility.
Why risk readiness is a new core competency
As health systems navigate resource constraints and cost challenges in a turbulent environment, adopting an entrepreneurial mindset positions leaders to embrace new opportunities for growth. It leads them to consider outside-the-box opportunities for growth—critical to success in a market where labor shortages and high expenses demand alternative models of care and service. It also gives them the confidence to stay focused on the right investments for their organization, even as well-funded disruptors encroach on their market.
Some health systems—typically large systems—create their own venture capital funds to diversify revenue streams, reduce operational costs or even advance health equity as part of their mission. But risk as it relates to growth doesn’t have to mean putting dollars into startup-like opportunities to see what sticks and what doesn’t. There are numerous opportunities to reevaluate how organizations deliver care and service to ensure better quality and more meaningful experiences.
It’s true that achieving a high level of comfort in outsourcing clinical services has taken time. The prevailing attitude has been, “We need to keep these services in-house to protect the patient experience.”
But at a time when clinical workforce shortages threaten both quality of care and hospital margins, leaders must explore ways to ensure patients receive the right care without putting undue pressure on existing staff. This may mean looking outside the walls of the hospital to put specialized expertise where it is needed most—even remotely—to support optimal outcomes.
Putting an entrepreneurial mindset into action
How can health system leaders most effectively adopt an entrepreneurial mindset and embrace new opportunities for growth? Here are three key considerations.
- Assess where high-touch patient engagement is needed and whether an in-house approach is best. Often when large systems evaluate opportunities for growth, they tend to think, “We’re big enough and smart enough to do this on our own.” That may be true—but do your team members have the time, skills and resources to deliver exceptional service in that functional area every day? In some instances, lack of leadership capacity or expertise may make partnership a better option for investment. For instance, one health system is exploring safer practices for administering high-risk medications at the patient bedside by leveraging virtual nurses to double-check medication administration by in-house staff. This not only enhances patient safety, but also frees up bedside nurses to focus their attention where it is needed most.
- Get comfortable having uncomfortable conversations around who is delivering care, how care is being delivered, and why. One of the reasons tech-enabled disruptors have been so successful in redesigning care experiences around the consumer is that they aren’t afraid to reimagine the care experience from end to end. They aren’t tied to a vision of healthcare service and delivery that legacy organizations like hospitals and health systems find difficult to dismantle—operationally and culturally. To engage teams in objective conversations around care redesign, start with data, but be open to feedback from multiple stakeholders. For example, one large system with multiple hospitals found that one facility could accept intra-hospital transfers in 10 minutes or less 43% of the time, but another facility could do so just 3% of the time. This sparked a series of conversations around what variables led to such a dramatic difference in performance—and what it would take to achieve best-in-class results at both facilities.
- Don’t shy away from “roller-coaster reinvention.” The road to innovation will be characterized by twists and turns and alternating speeds. By centering innovation around ways to reduce friction in the care experience—including at the point of contact—and holding tight to a vision of what you hope to achieve, you will be better able to sustain momentum.
It’s important, too, that leaders keep teams from feeling as if they are in “crisis mode” throughout an innovation project. At one health system that is delivering hospital at home care, an outsourced team of registered nurses monitors the patient, answers patient questions, monitors medications and provides patient education in concert with other on-the-ground care team members. The outsourcing partner then determines the right time to activate a health system nurse based on what the data and patient communication reveal. It’s a care delivery model that ensures best care for patients while innovating. Patients receive exceptional care in the best location for recovery, while health systems create additional care availability within the four walls. This helps prevent nurse burnout while ensuring patients and their families receive the attention and guidance they need.
By incorporating elements of risk that complement a health system’s vision, healthcare leaders can drive a sustainable growth strategy that benefits patients and staff and better positions the organization for the future.