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3 ways executives can lead change in healthcare

My experience in clinical practice, in managing a private practice, and in supporting healthcare organizations at Allscripts reinforces the reality that healthcare is a complex, chaotic and messy system.

As healthcare organizations look to survive and thrive in this highly complex environment, leaders must take a systems approach to identifying solutions to achieve healthcare’s Quadruple Aim – better care, smarter spending, healthy clinicians, and healthy patients and communities.

A systems approach to problem solving acknowledges that people, processes and technologies are interrelated and interdependent. In short, they do not exist in isolation. With this is mind, it is critical for healthcare leaders to evaluate solutions for achieving the Quadruple Aim holistically to ensure organizational goals are maximized and unintended consequences are mitigated or eliminated.

Be mindful of your organization’s unique strengths and challenges

Importantly, there is no “silver bullet” for achieving the goals of the Quadruple Aim. Because organizations are unique, it is necessary for healthcare leaders to take stock of their organization’s strengths and challenges to determine the most effective strategy for achieving their goals. 

By clearly articulating organizational goals and assessing how the organization is positioned to achieve these goals, leaders can identify the best solutions (e.g., hire more nurses, invest in technology) to complement existing assets and achieve improvements in the safety, quality and cost-effectiveness of patient care.

Proactively identify unintended consequences

Because healthcare is so complex, the risk of unintended consequences with well-intentioned solutions is significant (e.g., delivery system reform and clinician burnout). To overcome this risk, healthcare organizations must proactively evaluate, monitor and adapt to new and uncertain conditions. With constant vigilance to both intended and unintended responses to strategic decisions, healthcare leaders can better position their organizations to more effectively deliver on the Quadruple Aim.

Thoughtful use of technology

Although viewed by some as a “holy grail” for healthcare improvement, technology alone will not cure the ills of our U.S. healthcare system. To effectively deliver on the Quadruple Aim, healthcare leaders must strike the right balance with technology and non-technology solutions. Health IT plays a valuable role in healthcare improvement, but it must be used to complement both people and process.

With a thoughtful, multi-faceted approach to understanding healthcare’s challenges and potential solutions, healthcare leaders will be more successful in improving the care experience and achieving healthy outcomes.

Editor’s note: Dr. Geoff Caplea spoke on this topic at the Becker’s Hospital Review 10th Annual Meeting on April 3, 2019. 

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