A buzzy concept in the healthcare industry for the last several years is “transformation.” Many organizations have established an office of transformation or recruited and hired a chief transformation officer. Some provider organizations have even incorporated “transformation” into their mission and vision statements and strategic plans.
However, in general, as an industry we have not made much transformative progress. In short, our industry appears to be struggling with transformation.
We all know that we need to change—that’s the very definition of transformation: a thorough or dramatic change. But change to what? That vision is still ill-defined. Our “from-to” equation contains an unknown variable and remains unsolved. We don’t really know what we want to become. And therein lies the rub. The chubby, earth-bound caterpillar decides he wants long legs and some pretty wings. He wants to fly. He transforms and becomes a beautiful butterfly.
In truth, transformation is fairly straightforward. It requires just three things: you must know what you are, you must know what you want to become, and you must have the determination required to make the change. The challenge for healthcare is that we only have two of those three elements. We know who we are and we seem to have the resolve required for real change. What we don’t know—and have not yet adequately defined—is what we want to become. Since we don’t know or can’t define what we might imagine ourselves to be, we are very hesitant to give up the safety and comfort of the status quo. But, like the caterpillar, we must stop crawling if we ever hope to fly.
“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are,” according to the late leadership guru Max De Pree. Dramatic change—transformation—is critical to our survival as an industry. Consumers are now demanding very different kinds of health and wellness services than those our industry currently provide. They expect frictionless, always-accessible convenience; they expect self-service; they expect an immediacy of service not restricted by location; and they expect low-cost, high-quality care.
These things are the expectations of modern life. In the emerging healthcare market they offer no competitive advantage, only competitive disadvantage to those failing to offer such services.
Today’s consumers expect us to predict and prevent, not just diagnose and treat. And the new competitive battleground is the customer experience. Even for their most intimate personal care, customers and patients expect and deserve to receive a truly exceptional experience. Amazon attributes its success to being “customer obsessed.” Is our industry “patient obsessed?” Whether we call them patients, customers or consumers, there should be no other industry more passionately obsessed with the service experience than healthcare. Sadly, that is not the case.
Our operating model is an anachronism, reliant on closed data systems and too much paper and manual processing in this digitally connected, mobile and cloud-based age. More concerning, the existing care model and clinical workflows are centered around the convenience of the service provider rather than the convenience of the service customer. So what does that mean? It means that we have it exactly backwards.
Enter transformation. Transformed healthcare is very different. It’s personalized. It’s remote. It’s virtual. And it provides immediate access to services when, where and how it is most convenient for the service customer, not the service provider.
Transformation literally means “a change of form.” To change the form of healthcare, we must reimagine ourselves from the customer perspective. More than that, we must demonstrate the courage and commitment to give up that which we value most—our current provider-centric operating model. We will never become something very different by remaining something very much the same. Ask the butterfly. He knows.