Why Isn't Healthcare Better?

Why Isn’t Healthcare Better?

Plenty of engineers, not enough artists

No one is happy with today’s healthcare system – not the leaders who run its hospitals, not the doctors and nurses who treat patients, and certainly not the patients they serve, who are frustrated by the cost and confusion of getting care.

The business of delivering care has lived on a burning platform and has been in a moment of transformation, evolution, revolution – pick your buzzword – since I began working in the field 25 years ago.

And yet, the industry isn’t transformed.

There’s been massive investment in the machinery of care, but our system of delivering care remains stubbornly stagnant. Except for the fax machine, today’s system would be familiar to any physician practicing 50 years ago.

How long can a platform burn?

Not forever. The question today isn’t whether healthcare is finally, dramatically changing.  It’s who will be Blockbuster and who will be Netflix and how fast will be that decided.

Can hide-bound systems emerge as new healthcare creatures? Yes. Can disruptive upstarts dislodge old reimbursement patterns and patient expectations to redefine the experience of care? Absolutely.

But for true transformation to occur, it takes more than new machinery and models.

Through the years, we have seen savvy leaders invest substantial money and time to develop well-engineered strategies to make their organizations competitive and prosperous, only to see their plans crash on the runway of the real world. We’ve seen companies place their hopes and treasure in new technologies or processes or markets that are rejected like bad transplants or fall woefully short of their design.

You’ve seen this, too. There may be a white, three-ring binder sitting on your shelf that is a tombstone to just this kind of expensive, best-laid, unrealized plan.

Why do good plans fail? Because a good plan alone is not enough. A new solution, a new strategic approach, a new technology, a new capital investment, a new model alone is not enough. By themselves, these will likely fail.

There is second element to change beyond smartly knowing what must change. It’s the how. How do you make radical, transformative change occur and stick? How is change made possible?

This is the Art of Change.

The Art of Change is the second necessary element. It requires a deep appreciation for the relational, political dynamic that thrums within every healthcare system and company.

It’s the work of apprehending the entire ecosystem required for change to occur and carefully navigating that landscape. It maps and leverages the powerful connection between physicians, nurses, patients, operators, regulators, payors and more.

It requires time and patience. It requires speaking to the emotions – the fears and hopes and callings – of the people who matter and of the moment in which they live.

It requires articulating a vision so compelling it pulls people through an uncomfortable journey to a future that cannot be fully known. It requires listening and conversing and acknowledging the difficulty of the work with the people who will need to do it.

But, for all of that, the Art of Change is not a shadowy soft skill, a warm-and-fuzzy nice-to-have defined by staff morale parties and rah-rah posters.

In fact, this art involves its own disciplines, strategies and skill sets that are learnable, measurable and scalable. There’s a way to do it right and lots of ways to screw it up. Those who master it enjoy a clear return on investment that drives the bottom line.

In eight issues over the next 12 months, we will demystify the Art of Change.

We will unpack its elements, turning this art into a practical, applicable practice you can deploy to pursue your most ambitious strategies.

You will see case studies and best practices. You’ll hear from industry experts who are recognized for their skill at leading their organizations through radical transformation.

We hope, too, to launch a conversation.

We want to use this topic to convene smart people to have the right discussion about artfully shaping the future of our industry.

Healthcare is rich in visionaries and task-oriented managers – in planners and strategists and executers of excellence. They are all critical. Now we need to be more than experts – we need to be architects of a world that doesn’t exist yet.

In a word, we need artists.

The future of healthcare belongs to those who master the Art of Change.

About the Author /

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Jarrard Inc. President and CEO David Jarrard has earned a national reputation in helping healthcare systems and health services companies use their public and political strengths to succeed in high-stakes moments. Under his guidance, the firm has become the nation’s leading strategic communications consultancy dedicated to work that spans healthcare clients’ most challenging communications issues.