One week into the new year, and here I am already probably tearing at the limits of content relevancy, thinking about how to write something meaningful on what to look for in 2014. What are the emerging industry trends and drivers that healthcare executives need to understand and reflect in their 2014 strategic planning? What’s the competitive landscape going to look like? How will diverging synergies of clinical partnerships impact silo management tendencies? How many overused business school concepts can be stuffed into a blog post?
To be candid, I really wanted to write something here that was keen on unique insights and observations. That had a lofty air containing pearls of wisdom. But the more I thought about what to write the more daunting became the effort of where to start, what to include and how to organize my thoughts without losing you to confusion and boredom in the first paragraph.
And being confused myself under the weight of my inability to organize that thinking it dawned upon me that I was tripping over the most common intellectual obstacle: failure to accept that too often our desire to embrace the complex hides our fear of accepting the wisdom of simplicity. And that reminded me of the scene below between Billy Crystal and Jack Palance in City Slickers. It epitomizes the challenge we have in accepting simplicity.
So what’s the ONE THING that healthcare providers need to focus on in 2014? Easy answer: the same thing they needed to focus on in 2013. And 2005. And 1919. VALUE. But just as our understanding of life can be both simple and difficult – so too can learning to strategically position a healthcare organization around value.
The concept of providing value is ancient. Yet the ability to create, deliver and capture value is an increasingly important – and contextual – competitive advantage when resources become constrained at the same time demand is accelerating. Value-based pricing and cost reimbursement models are only a part of the value-driven healthcare paradigm. It’s the small top part of the value delivery pyramid (or perhaps iceberg is a more fitting analogy).
Critically important to understand is what the patient values. And even more important is accepting the processes that patients use for determining and comparing relative value does not easily lend itself to linear thinking or evidence-based protocols. Similarly, the individuals who create and bring value to patients cannot be made to fit into standardized care delivery machines. And understanding how they assess and compare relative value is every bit as important in creating a competitively superior healthcare offering.
Healthcare providers are increasingly being asked to share in the risk of care delivery economics. I know that must sound ironically distasteful to many, since they have already for centuries borne the ultimate risk of patient outcomes. But on the whole, I believe it’s an oddity of our healthcare financing system – not a perverse entrapment designed to reallocate resources away from production – that seeks to align the incentives of multiple participants around value.
If, however, that understanding is ultimately manifested in just measuring and promoting value – without creating and delivering value – value-driven pricing and reimbursement models will necessarily fail, whether that’s payment bundling, ACOs or medical homes. But – those organizations that learn to create and deliver value by strategically positioning themselves in lieu of the industry migration toward integrated care delivery will survive whether those new models succeed or not.
So my list of trends and drivers for 2014 is simple: value, value & value.