By now, the spring of 2023, the leadership of any healthcare organization should have figured out two inevitable truths:
Telehealth is here to stay, will continue to grow, will over time replace most in-person care interactions and will be the most important competitive factor over the next 5 years.
The ability to quickly adopt Digital Health health innovation is key to avoiding obsolescence.
If not, they are either sticking their head in the sand, are putting their fingers in their ears singing “la-la-la I can’t hear you”, or are caught like a deer in headlights (or are oscillating between the three).
Why? Because the competitive forces from non-traditional, innovative for-profit enterprises (think: Amazon, Apple, CVS, Google, Best Buy, Walmart, JP Morgan, Dollar General) are gaining huge momentum and they are iterating rapidly to figure out the most efficacious and profitable way to keep people healthy (and working). If their latest iteration does not work? They kill it and move on to the next. And they are after your patients, the privately insured ones that are paying most of your bills.
The good news is that your organization can optimize their use of telehealth and strategically use that experience to be prepared for embracing digital health innovation. Since everyone in healthcare got a taste of telehealth, it opened up people’s minds to what’s possible, even though many of the experiences were subpar (and relegated to the use of the phone only). So you are not starting from zero.
To ensure survival, growth is no longer enough. Leaders must take their teams to the next level by transforming the culture of the organization — which is intuitively and empirically no small feat.
Other industries have done it and so can healthcare. It’s going to be much, much harder though, but fortunately we can build on the learnings in other industries and adapt them to the unique environment of healthcare. The answer is not and cannot be: that won’t work in healthcare. The aforementioned companies are ready to prove those voices wrong!
Based on a great writeup by McKinsey on achieving transformational success, here are the hallmarks of organizational transformations that yielded the desired results:
You need to go fast (be brisk!)
You need to go broad (go big!)
You need to be brave (go bold!)
Ultimately, making a transformation stick is about changing the minds (and hearts!) of an organization and it’s these three approaches that will make that happen.
What will stop any effort to change an organization’s culture (aka “a transformation”) in its tracks is slow progress. Once leadership goes public with its goal to fully integrate telehealth into a hybrid care delivery model or to select and deploy digital health solutions in a matter of weeks and not months or years, the key to lasting success is to get meaningful results quickly.
As the McKinsey article points out: “Three actions are crucial: preparing for a rapid execution at the start, maintaining momentum beyond the initial launch, and embedding the transformation’s operational infrastructure into business as usual so that the changes stick.”
For telehealth and digital health transformations, this means that right out of the gate, your transformation strategy must lead with initiatives or projects that demonstrate value quickly. That value must be defined through the eyes of various stakeholders, i.e., not just through the executive lens.
Yet in times of dire financial straits, driving a positive impact on the organization’s bottom line can be the most meaningful way to demonstrate value — but only if everyone else understands that this is not about making a profit, but rather to fund the transformation that will allow the organization to stay in business.
In order to visibly demonstrate the value, a proven approach is to define, track, and publicly share measures of success. Just like the thermometer-style fundraising meters, the public display of “how we are winning” will rally the troops and more easily align everyone around the goal.
In order to achieve this critical level of speed, a thoughtful amount of planning most go into the launch of a transformation campaign: what obstacles can we anticipate and overcome? what pushback should we be prepared for? what are the unintended consequences we are not considering?
Oftentimes executives involved in the planning are too much in love with and thus too close to their idea or are too far removed from the trenches of day-to-day care delivery. Those can create dangerous blind spots that are best solved by external experts (yes, I’m promoting consultants!) that can help leaders see what they are missing.
“Let’s see if this works” falls into the “hope is not a strategy” category, and a “but we don’t know how because we’ve never done this before” demonstrates ignorance of the outside expertise (another shameless plug for consultants) that could be engaged to get it right out of the gate.
One of my mentors promotes the concept of “massive imperfect action” and the same holds true for the launch of a transformation. While the first phase looks at quick wins through demonstrated, measurable value creation, the next phase is about the widespread dissemination.
For Telehealth, don’t just limit it to one clinic, one specialty, or one type of telehealth. Spread out, go big, and involve the whole organization, so no one can hide from it. As leaders, you must leave no doubt you are committed to telehealth — this is not going away. By tying telehealth success to financial goals, by leaving no room for speculation, “shock and awe” is what is going to leverage the initial momentum and start building a flywheel of change and transformation.
For Digital Health Adoption Acceleration, after the initial 2-3 successes, create organization-wide competition to see which department, specialty, clinic, or team can identify and implement a particularly valuable digital health innovation the fastest. Again, reward speed and value, just like in the first phase. McKinsey’s research shows that organizations who involve a “substantial chunk of their workforce” will achieve top quartile results.
Desperate times call for desperate measures; Big Hairy Audacious Goals (aka BHAGs) are a concept first made popular by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their groundbreaking 1994 book “Built to Last”.
But BHAGs are not just audacious for the sake of being dramatic – great BHAGs are compelling and clear and unleash an energy across the organization that can propel change forward.
“By the end of the decade 80% of our outpatient care is delivered virtually.” or “we select, validate and deploy digital health innovation system wide in weeks, not years” are BHAGs that either seem like heresy, impossible — or both. Moonshots.
But moonshots is what’s needed to make sure your organization knows you are serious.
One of the biggest motivators to change is the strong desire to achieve the new state. To instill and inspire that desire, the objectives behind transformations that last have to go beyond the “why” of “protecting the bottom line”. The goal(s) must be ambitious and compelling enough to appeal to altruistic or aspirational goals.
Without a clear vision of a better future, the transformation will not have enough energy to sustain it through the inevitable trough of disillusionment and it will wither on the vine.
Be Brisk, Go Big, Go Bold.
If your organization deems it important to transform and do so sustainably, the above guidance is key to prepare for a rapid start to create value fast (Be Brisk!), cast a wide net to involve a good portion of your clinicians and staff (Go Big!), and set forth ambitious goals that inspire (Go Bold!).
As illustrated in the graphic above, all three elements are needed to succeed. Without the speed, the transformation initiative is dead on arrival. If the scope is not big enough, you’ll only achieve isolated success, and the lack of an ambitious goal will result in uninspired busywork.
In either case, you’ll fail.
Only when you set a BOLD vision, go BIG in showing that you are serious about it, and BRISKly create value will your organization achieve a successful, sustainable transformation. Isn’t that what every leader wants?
What transformation are you planning? Want to talk it through to see whether it is brisk, big, and bold enough? Then set up a call with Christian.