The HCI Group were proud to host the world's first virtual gathering of Healthcare Chief Digital Officers during the live Digital Voices event on November 19th 2020. The summit covered subjects across all of health and life sciences to help equip, educate and empower digital leaders. Our first session from Angela Yochem, Chief Digital Officer from Novant Health, discussed how to accelerate healthcare evolution through looking at cross-industry lessons:"We have seen some of these lessons applied at forward thinking systems who are changing the way they think about the capabilities required to achieve the outcomes that we all want for our patients and communities. Fundamentally, the world is changing more rapidly than ever before and this change is being felt in every industry."
Strength of your ecosystem
The strength of your ecosystem is a differentiating factor. Long gone are the days when all the competitive ideas came from within a companies four walls. Across industries, companies are finding ways to engage with start ups, universities, other research institutions, inventors or even some research teams within large vendors who are willing to engage differently. The companies that engage in this way are able to flex and be very intentional about the way that they define and deliver solutions that will set them apart from their competitors.
You know the old argument of buy-versus-build? A lot of the time the answer lies somewhere in the middle with co-creation. Adoption of components that fit into the current state, but can evolve as the business evolves. Coopetition is another method that was introduced by the thought leaders of Reality TV. Sometimes working with a competitor to achieve something that will elevate the service that you both offer the community is the best and quickest way to advance. We certainly see this in healthcare and this year perhaps more than ever before, as we battle a global pandemic. The lesson here is to make sure you're never making another buy-versus-build decision and that you are instead building a diverse ecosystem of contributors of all types who will allow you and your team to grow and evolve over time.
The Evolution of Consumer Appetites
Another trend that we see across many industries is the evolution of consumer appetites. Our patients and the communities that we serve are all consumers of our products and services, They are being trained by other industries in many different methods of engagement and their expectations are higher now than ever before.
This change is a very good thing for healthcare! Firstly, our patients expect to engage with us across multiple channels. The easier we make it for our patients to communicate with us in the health community the more likely patients are to stay healthy and avoid major health events through preventative means. This not only requires contemporary looking design and consumer grade tools that we put in the hands of our patients, but also investments into the backend architectures that enable transactional integrity between channels.
In healthcare some of this transactional integrity is enabled through the use of a single EHR. Most healthcare systems of any size have done this, particularly in terms of clinical engagements, but in the case where a patient starts a video visit and then needs to visit the clinic for further examination, making that transaction seamless requires us to have another layer in place to capture non-clinical experiential information and allow that engagement to be carried over from channel to channel. We want to avoid the feeling of disjointedness that patient can feel from going from one location to another.
Healthcare organizations have focused so much on perfecting their collection and protection of clinical data, but some have maybe forgotten to collect and act upon that customer experience data that informs every engagement the patient has with us. There is a lot to be learned cross-industry in the consumer engagement space.
The loosening of traditional constraints to competition
Other industries have been feeling a crunch of new entrants skimming off the new lucrative business for decades now. We saw this with eCommerce versus physical retail stores, Uber & Lyft versus traditional taxis, AirBnB versus hotels and hospitality, and the list goes on and on. Successful organizations regardless of industry are able to flex and respond to the emergence of unconventional competitors.
What is the healthcare equivalent? One area is digital health. Certainly during the COVID-19 crisis most systems have adopted a digital health capability. Past expansion had been limited not by the technology capabilities, but by regulatory restrictions, business decisions and licensing restrictions that loosened as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. We should continue to encourage these changes, but if we aren't keeping up with creating differentiating services in this space then we are at risk of losing this part of our business to others in and outside of our geography.
Another threat that we might see are small footprint specialty outpatient centers who are skimming off lucrative elective procedures and leaving large healthcare systems just running EDs. The loss of specialty services and elective procedures will hit traditional healthcare hard. The fragmentation of these services to the patient are going to create a further disjointed experience for them, which will further result in less healthy communities.
The lesson here is that others will continue to come after your market. Don't think that it is tied up because of past barriers to entry. Companies that are bigger and have deeper pockets are coming. You have to be nimble, offer new services and products, outrun competitors, stay ahead with differentiating solutions and for goodness sake - do not listen to anyone who tells you that the right thing to do at this time is to go back to basics!
Mergers and Acquisitions are rampant
There are lots of organizations engaging in M&As. It is important to understand what this phenomenon means when a company chooses to outrun its losses through an acquisition. The amount of M&A we see in other industries that are also under attack is really extraordinary.
Take retail as an example. Traditional brick and mortar retailers have been upended by online retailers for decades now. When two traditional retail companies who are in financial trouble join forces, they combine their revenues and reduce overall operating expenses by eliminating redundant functions. The day the books close, they look like they are doing pretty well, but this is short lived if they don't change their approach to making money. Retailers continue to outrun their losses through these serial acquisitions.
Traditional retailers who have held their own and done well as their industry evolves, are not only engaging in M&A activity, but are also buying up adjacent businesses and are partnering with others in completely different businesses. For instance, if a store purchases a popular coffee retailer, they do so not because it will make them money, but because it will increase foot traffic to the store.
In healthcare it is easy to imagine the sorts of acquisitions and partnerships that we might explore. For instance, we see a lot of healthcare companies buying up software companies and that makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons. However, it is also important for our teams to be prepared for unexpected and unconventional acquisitions, as this could provide the edge required to expand and evolve your business further.
To hear more from the Digital Voices event click here to watch the recording