February 2018 | Point of View

Why the healthcare industry is taking a hard look at how people work

Why the healthcare industry is taking a hard look at how people work

Increasingly, measuring and quantifying work activity will be a prerequisite for success in an evolving health care market.

A convergence of forces – from regulation to consumer advocacy to cost controls – is transforming the face of health care. Existing players and new entrants are disrupting traditional delivery models and driving change in how health care organizations provide services. A prime example is Amazon’s recently announced collaboration with Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase to change health care for employee groups.

Additionally, these forces are driving a consolidation of players –  a trend very much evident in Seattle through transactions such as Kaiser Permanente’s acquisition of Group Health and the recent announcement of merger talks between Providence St. Joseph Health and Ascension Health. Even organizations that choose to remain independent are engaging in new types of collaboration to build presence and economies of scale.

A key piece of the equation is ensuring your workforce is enabled to be as effective as possible. Inefficient health care operations not only increases costs, it effects employee engagement, patient experience and perception of value. It also makes it harder for organizations to pivot their operations to capitalize on new opportunities.

To compete effectively in a changing market, health care organizations will need to better understand and then refine the way their people work. This type of analysis has been key to transformation in other industries, such as retail and financial services. Now, health care organizations are beginning to realize the importance of measuring and managing work to ensure their highly-skilled workforce are positioned to create value.

Why the renewed focus on the way people work? 

Rapid industry change and continued pressure on premiums necessitate a more detailed quantitative understanding of the organization and its operations. Several trends make it all the more critical to focus in on the work people do.

While industry consolidation has enabled economies of scale, the rush to combine often produces organizations that have ill-defined, redundant, or sub-optimal roles that have not been sufficiently updated or upgraded for the new structure. Activities and actions often get “lost in the shuffle” of consolidation and may now be hiding in some surprising places – for example, tasks that prevent people in senior level roles from contributing maximum value or activities that are automated in one location but performed manually in others.

While the industry is consolidating, health care job growth continues to outpace many other sectors – and projections indicate that will continue. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, health care industries and their associated occupations are expected to account for a large share of new U.S. jobs projected through 2026. In its 2017 Employment Projections report, the Washington State Employment Security Department cited health services and social assistance as one of the state’s largest expected growth sectors between 2015 and 2025.

The accelerating use of technology  to digitize and automate operations – for example, mobile apps that enable patient self-service or robotic process automation tools that replace certain human tasks – is also increasing the mandate to analyze health care roles. While technology has improved efficiency, increased access to data, and brought other benefits to health care delivery, too much technology added to a process or role (“application sprawl”) can actually have an adverse impact on efficiency if not managed well.

Additionally, organizations often don’t give sufficient attention to people and process changes when using new technology to automate a process, affecting their ability to realize the full benefits of automation. Understanding activities at a greater level of detail can yield quick wins and low-cost opportunities to improve and standardize processes.

Finally, increasing complexity in the health care market makes it harder to assess pricing and profitability. In order to produce accurate assessments, an organization will need to conduct comprehensive analysis of specific activities to understand the true cost of delivering services.

Without better insight about how people spend their time, it will be difficult for health care organizations to position themselves to react quickly, decisively, and with solid quantitative grounding to make strategic moves and counter-measures against disruptive influences.

Read the full published article in Seattle Business.


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