Health Progress | Investment in Innovation Can Bring Transformative Change

Health ProgressBy JOE RANDOLPH

Few would deny the need for transformative change in U.S. health care across any spectrum — political, socioeconomic or otherwise. Declining reimbursements, rising costs, changing demographics and the sweeping effects of the Affordable Care Act all are realities driving health systems to seek new solutions for care and new revenue sources.

Increasingly, health care providers realize that incremental change and cost reductions are insufficient to make up the shortfall. Constraints and burdens on the current delivery model of health care are now so manifest, many industry leaders surmise that non-patient revenues will need to surpass patient revenues in coming decades as health systems look for new operating models and new revenue sources.

In an effort to get in front of this curve, many health systems are looking to the world of innovation as a potential lifeline for their future. The attractive promise of innovation offers solutions unburdened by the baggage of old processes and products. Speak with any leader in health care about the possibility of unlocked creativity leading to transformative care for his or her community, and you will find a willing ear. Yet, hospitals and health systems that seek to implement innovation initiatives are surprised when they face systemic organizational biases.

U.S. health care strongly rewards risk-averse organizations. A quick scan of health care providers’ mission statements will find a core message centered on the improvement of and care for human life. Given that the protection of the people they serve is paramount, we should not be surprised when hospital cultures adopt blanket practices geared to avoid any risk, despite the costs. Who would not be dismayed to find his or her local hospital unconcerned about risky surgical practices? However, this very aversion to risk-taking — even intelligent risk-taking — is precisely what makes health care organizations so ill-suited to pursue innovation effectively.  More…