Growing muscles for the future of healthcare

The healthcare sector is incredibly diverse, with a wide spectrum of issues, challenges and opportunities. So, what exactly should we look out for?
Peter Willen

There are many reasons why I love working in healthcare, but the main one is that I’m part of the drive towards better care for patients, which means better care for my family, friends, loved ones, and by extension, the entire society. Another reason is that the healthcare sector is incredibly diverse, with a wide spectrum of issues, challenges and opportunities.

Renovation, EHR implementation, (re)accreditation, strategic care planning, primary care reforms, network building, transmural and integrated care pathways, low variability care, etc. are all big projects that are causing many a sleepless night for people in the sector, but are also providing opportunities. On top of that, we are dealing with a technological (r)evolution combined with (more demanding) patients who expect their care to be even more personalized.

In the long term, both patients and healthcare professionals stand to benefit from these evolution, but today, this plethora of changes and opportunities often leads to professionals spreading themselves too thinly. It’s fairly typical that a session on burn-out in healthcare professionals gets a lot more attention than a session on strategy. There is a lot going on—maybe too much—but the options are limited.

The question is: how do we remedy the issue? Unlike during the early years of my professional career in healthcare (almost 10 years ago), the difference—as far as I’m concerned—is no longer (solely) made through strategic options, but rather through the manner in which these strategic options are implemented. The speed of this implementation, the flexibility to make the most of new (technological) evolution, the decisiveness and capacity of an organization to achieve tangible results (for patients), the utilization and valorization of the knowledge and information present within an organization, the effectiveness of our use of available technologies, etc. are the factors that will decide whether we’ll be able to keep our heads above water.

So, what exactly should we look out for?

When I delve a little deeper into the trending topics mentioned above to try and find the real stumbling blocks we must tackle immediately, I see 4 themes:

How can we evolve towards a culture of enterprise excellence, where organizations are flexible, decisive and results-oriented? 

The term ‘culture’ implies involvement by everyone, from the board of directors right down to the receptionist welcoming patients day in, day out. Culture goes deeper than merely achieving an accreditation or completing a project: it relates to the observable (day-to-day) behavior of all employees. This demands a change in the way we exert leadership and manage organizations, as well as fundamental respect for the various basic rules required to get an organization into that position.

How can we – in the context of a successful hospital network, cooperation with primary care institutions, the consolidation of supporting processes, and an innovative healthcare organization – support openness, cooperation, and shared goals with a suitable organizational model? 

Cooperation between hospitals, between hospitals and primary care institutions, and between medical disciplines both inside and outside of hospitals, etc. can be sustainable if attention is paid to good governance, an honest and objective (re)distribution of work and resources, and if the various partners continue to work on maintaining mutual trust. The best way to build this essential element of trust is to achieve common results (such as logistics platforms, associations, care pathways, etc.). To do so, a sense of ‘we’ cannot remain some abstract concept, but must be genuinely experienced by everyone involved. This latter aspect cannot be realized without making changes to governance and ensuring the exchange of information is fully transparent.

How can we efficiently and sustainably allocate our resources (money, people, infrastructure, equipment, etc.)? 

A breakthrough in the allocation of resources is absolutely essential. We cannot ignore the fact that infrastructure, equipment, and personnel need to be utilized much more effectively. How? Through better planning, including forecasting based on historical figures; through better exchange of information (consultation inflow, OT planning, ward occupation); through questioning our opening hours; through seeking economies of scale; through comparing actual cost price with current and future budgets; and much more.

How can we translate personalized care into day-to-day healthcare settings, and how can patient segmentation help in this regard? 

The arrival of technology offers huge new opportunities in this area, but also creates an additional headache. How can we combine accessible care with personalized (digital?) care? We will most likely have to divide our patient population into groups, and offer each of these groups a care provision with more or less technology, and with other care aspects, either within or outside of care institutions, but with the patient remaining firmly in control. A ‘one size fits all’ model won’t be an option. This will provide a real challenge, not least in terms of patient interests. In order to get personalized care, a patient-oriented EHR implementation is definitely a must have.

Thanks for reading

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