Are you prepared to confront the challenges and opportunities of the future healthcare landscape?

By Bill Rutherford, chief financial officer and executive vice president of HCA. He presented an expanded version of this material at the 2014 HealthTrust University Conference.

The successful health system of the future will commit to creating an integrated delivery system that is focused on delivering the highest quality outcomes, in the most efficient cost structure, while ensuring an exceptional patient experience. In essence, all stakeholders in the healthcare system are pursuing this kind of high-value healthcare system.

Those systems that can align their delivery capability with these value propositions will succeed in the future; those who don’t will not survive. As healthcare reform allows more people to gain access to health coverage, and as we as individuals take a more active role in our healthcare purchasing decisions, this pursuit of health value takes on great meaning in the future of healthcare.

Leaders must commit to, provide and measure their ability to deliver high-value healthcare. In addition, our evaluation of health value should extend beyond just the walls of the hospital. The entire encounter with the health system should be in our focus. This evaluation should begin with the initial access point, extending to the physician interaction through the hospital episode and the post-hospital experience.

With the historic healthcare demand trends, efforts to help people gain access to coverage and the continuing aging of the population, there will continue to be pressure on health systems across the country. This will put even more emphasis on the drive for delivering exceptional health value.

There are six key principles that can help today’s healthcare leaders successfully navigate the future:

1. Prepare in advance of the need. One factor that distinguishes the great from the good is the ability to be prepared while also being adaptable to change when necessary. Adaptability means being flexible in your thinking—shifting course when it becomes clear that change is warranted and before it’s too late.

2. Listen to the market and separate myth from fact. Stay on top of macro trends. Strategies, tactics and positions should be fluid over time, based on what the market warrants.

There are benefits to looking beyond your organization for insight. Be open to multiple ways to expand your vision, whether that means joining industry groups, networking with other supply chain executives or hiring consultants to provide a much-needed viewpoint from outside your own institution. If you listen only to people within your organization, you risk relying too heavily on internal knowledge and experience. By combining insight from others, you can get a clearer picture of the greater landscape.

Conversely, be careful about reacting to or chasing the latest fad or trends. If you’re relying on the advice of others, ensure the fact base is relevant for your organization and market realities.

3. Find a way to contribute in your own unique way. We all have a role to play in this pursuit of value. Obviously we can contribute from the caregiver perspective, but it’s also important to look for ways to improve efficiency, obtain high quality goods and supplies, and identify and suggest improvements to enhance the patient experience within your health system.

4. Play to your core strengths. As a leader, you can hire great people to work for your organization and then support them in their endeavors. You can also use your own strengths—education, experience, personality and skills—to connect to the organization’s overall purpose. Find a way to contribute in whatever way that works for you. After all, it should be a team approach—and you are a valuable part of the team.

5. Keep a patient-centered ethos in everything that you do. At HCA we have adopted a phrase that our founder Dr. Thomas Frist Sr. instilled in the organization: “Take care of the patient and everything else will follow.” Healthcare has been evolving toward a patient-centered model of care for some time. We should never lose sight of what our mission is for being in healthcare.

6. Make your time count—lead by example in behavior, vision, work ethic and execution. Plenty of people pay lip service to the ideal of leading by example, but there has to be an underlying commitment. The tone at the top can set the tone for an entire organization. Leaders can’t forget—and must continually demonstrate—that they have a vision and value the culture of the organization that they’re leading.

Treat everyone with integrity and recognize people for their contributions. The small details (a handwritten thank you note, an acknowledgement at a staff meeting or other public praise) can go a long way. You have to be cognizant that there are a lot of people watching you.

Facing the dynamics and changing landscape of healthcare today will require vision, leadership, well-communicated strategies and the ability to adjust as factors warrant.

Are you ready for the challenge?

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