Why Innovation at Scale Matters in Healthcare

The US healthcare industry, if it were a country, would be the 5th largest economy in the world. At more than $3.2 trillion in annual national health expenditures, the industry is just smaller than the size of the entire economy of Germany ($3.5 trillion) and is larger than Britain’s ($3.0 trillion). For it to matter, any innovation needs to be, what we call at Providence St. Joseph Health, “a needle mover”.

The ultimate challenge in this industry is to innovate at scale in order to move the needle on solutions to the biggest problems that health systems face. This can be challenging because many health systems and health plans get distracted by very “cool innovations” that if brought to scale may not move the needle.

We see 5 critical components to achieving innovation at scale:

·       A unified mission

·       The right people and team

·       Innovating at the ends of the industry value chain

·       Innovating on what won’t change

·       Going digital with our customers

First, mission is essential because it’s the key ingredient to overcoming and persevering through tough challenges. Our organizational heritage is one of being purpose-driven innovators — rooted in the founding missions of the Sisters of Providence and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange to serve all members of their communities — especially the poor and vulnerable. That mission remains, and today our goal is to democratize healthcare and make it accessible to everyone on their terms. As such, we have focused PSJH’s Digital & Innovation team around discovering important digital innovations, demonstrating they work, and bringing them to scale across our organization.

Second, we needed the right team focusing on our broader purpose. We’ve hired a talented team who has delivered innovations at large scale in other complex industries. Many members of our team come from healthcare but most come from recognized consumer brands like Amazon, Microsoft, SalesForce, IDEO, among others. They are working side-by-side with healthcare experts from our health system to leverage these experiences, bring cross-industry learnings, and drive transformational change by blending those learnings with deep knowledge of healthcare’s strategic, economic, and operational drivers. If you’re in our offices in Seattle, you’ll see daily stand ups with health care experts working to solve problems alongside software development engineers and product managers.

Third, we are innovating at the ends of the industry value chain, which for us means innovating on what delivers value directly to consumers / patients and providers. This is a concept my team brought from Amazon. There we learned there are only two groups that will matter in an industry value chain — the people who deliver value (caregivers and clinicians) and the people who receive that value (patients). Our job should be to eliminate the friction that the health system writ large inserts between the caregiver/clinician and the patient. We are committed to solving problems that impact our caregivers’ ability to deliver the best care, and our patients’ ability to conveniently access care and engage with us on an ongoing basis to maintain and optimize their health and wellness. Our ultimate goal is to be the trusted partner in health for the communities we serve.

Fourth, the focus on what won’t change is the foundation of an enduring, no-regrets digital strategy. Regardless of the payment environment, whether in fee-for-service or value-based care, there are immutable factors that will remain unchanged. When I was at Amazon, we focused our innovations on what would always be valuable to customers when they shop — lower prices, greater choice, and better convenience. The same is true of health care but what we focus on is different. The ultimate aim of healthcare is achieving the quadruple aim — improving the health of populations, improving patient and provider experience, and reducing healthcare spending. Innovation at scale is one way by which we’re working toward this aim.

Finally, driving innovation at scale means going digital — having customers engage and transact online with us. In healthcare today, consumers transact and engage with health systems in a very limited manner. Therefore, in order to create change we must deliver a better online experience as compared to offline. In fact, this experience has to be 10 times better than what consumers are used to experiencing offline in order to entice them to work with us online. Then we need to engage with consumers about their health between episodes of care. This continuous engagement is critical. If we are successful, the impact is significant: lower cost access to convenient care, more effective population health through more meaningful and engaged patient relationships about their health, better caregiver experiences through digital tools that foster and enable value-added time between clinicians and their patients, and access to new and untapped revenue streams through commercialization and merchandising.

Healthcare is facing a historic turning point. Whatever the outcome of the ongoing policy debates, certain facts will remain: Innovation at scale will be a critical component to delivering value in healthcare, improving quality, convenience, and access — all while bending the cost curve.

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