Innovation has been a popular buzzword in healthcare for all the time I've been in the health policy field, and well before that. But what is meant by the term is fundamentally different today than it was decades or, for that matter, even a few years ago.
Where we have commonly thought of innovation in terms of the latest diagnostic scanning technology or a new surgical procedure that reduced recovery times and improved outcomes, now it has a much broader, game-changing meaning.
The rise of consumerism, the digital economy, precision medicine, predictive analytics, the increased use of artificial intelligence, and the acute awareness of healthcare affordability pressures—these are all serving as catalysts for change on a scale that we have not witnessed before.
While the media focus on large cross-sector acquisitions like CVS Health buying Aetna or new players like Amazon entering the healthcare arena, the major story is occurring in cities and small towns across the country as the local hospitals and health systems that have been cornerstones in their communities for decades are now epicenters of transformational change.
We're calling this transition “Redefining the H,” referring to the iconic white-on-blue road sign that for decades has said “follow me” to have your medical needs met. Hospital and health system leaders are well aware of the challenges before them and are reshaping their operations to meet patient needs and consumer expectations.
At the same time, unlike some other players entering the healthcare “space,” we will not compromise our values or whittle away at our obligation to care. We are committed to ensuring that vulnerable and marginalized communities have the same access and opportunity as those who are much more privileged. And we will work with lawmakers and regulators to ensure that this transformation occurs in a way that will protect the viability and sustainability of vital community health providers.
We know that the age of fee-for-service medicine is gradually, yet undeniably, giving way to value-based care. Hospitals have become organizations that reward value instead of volume, developing delivery methodologies that achieve greater efficiencies while using evidence-based practices, procedures and technologies to attain optimal outcomes.
The need for innovation, though, isn't limited to the system's shift to a pay-for-value orientation. Hospitals and health systems know that they can't remain an analog service in a digital environment. Americans expect the convenience and flexibility that 21st century telecommunications capabilities make possible. Providers have heard the call and are working to meet this demand.
Hospital care is no longer confined to brick-and-mortar parameters. For example, hospitals have embraced the use of telehealth, strengthening communications between providers and patients, and improving the patient experience. They are offering programs that monitor and care for patients at home. And they are investing in technology to coordinate care and make access easier for patients. At the same time, we need to prepare our workforce to be more nimble and responsive to be successful.
This is not to say change isn't challenging. Hospitals, unlike many others, cannot undergo wholesale transformation. They will continue to provide the comprehensive healthcare services that communities require. They will continue to perform sophisticated surgery, diagnostics and therapeutics that are on the cutting edge of science. In fact, the need for those services will continue to grow. They will maintain the capability to respond to disasters ranging from hurricanes to flu outbreaks. And they will continue to care for anyone who walks through their doors 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Redefining the H” can bring hospitals even closer to the communities and patients we serve. It is our opportunity to provide better care for more people in a way that ensures every hospital can play a leadership role as an anchor or access point for healthcare in their communities.