By Bevann K. Moreland
It has often been said that all motion is relative. If that is true, then standing still is actually stepping backwards in a world that is constantly evolving, developing and moving forward at lightning speed. Never has this been truer than it is today, with the current crisis caused by COVID-19 upending our nation’s healthcare system and our way of life.
For healthcare providers and health plans on the front line of this pandemic, this may seem like an odd time to be speaking about innovation as a case could be made to simply bear down, focus on the basics and make it through the day. But it is precisely because of the crisis that innovation is more critical than ever before.
While no one can predict with any certainty what the “new normal” will look like or when that historic day will come, it is those healthcare organizations and leaders who are at the forefront of innovation who will ultimately rise above the competition. And with CMS releasing new guidance to keep up with the impact of COVID-19 and putting such quality programs as STARS on temporary hold, there is no better time than now to get ahead of the innovation curve.
We have already seen examples, during this current crisis, where those organizations who had the foresight to innovate – particularly in the area of technology — are being rewarded. Innovation in “Member Facing” technology has helped Americans feel connected to their doctors, health plans and caregivers. The introduction of telehealth has served as a sort of life vest to help health plan members and patients stay safe at home while getting the care and attention they need. So too, those organizations with advanced technology have been able to successfully pivot to a “working from home” workforce without significant costs or hiccups in their operations or customer service. The lessens here are clear: technology investments go far beyond the anticipated ROI in the time of crisis, and that’s an important lesson learned before the next crisis or national disease occurs.
Product innovation is all about the development and market introduction of a new, redesigned, or substantially improved goods or services. It is also about taking what’s already there and making it much better. As the healthcare industry muddles it way through these difficult times, there will be tremendous pressure on all companies to continue to innovate in ways that achieve either a reduction of cost or an increase in revenue. Automation, artificial intelligence and process improvements will all be in play as companies look for both quick wins as well as longer term, sustainable gains. Innovation provides an opportunity for both. Here are five things to consider and questions to ponder:
- The current pandemic has caused a backlog of non COVID-19 care and providers and health plans alike must be prepared for this onslaught of patients, including those with mental health concerns for which a huge gap in care sadly exists. Are you prepared?
- The current crisis necessitated a concentration on immediate patient care for those afflicted, but we need to return our focus, with renewed energy, to preventive care. Healthy lifestyle habits and addressing such systemic concerns such as obesity and diabetes will lead to a healthier society and a lessening of chronic conditions. What can providers and payers do to be leaders in this arena?
- Disruptive innovation is the most influential business idea of the 21st century. To be a disrupter is to create a product, service, or way of doing things which displaces the existing market leaders and eventually replaces them at the helm of the sector. Digital disruption will reshape healthcare beyond COVID-19 care. Is your organization going to be a follower or a disruptive leader?
- Successful innovators “play to their strengths.” What are you good at, what can you take to the next level or how can you simplify something that has historically been complex?
- As the world returns one day to a “new normal,” healthcare organizations will need to revise their strategic plans and embrace new and improved technologies if they are to stay ahead of the pack. For many, that may mean rethinking “build vs buy” decisions and seeking out business partners who share their goals and values and can most effectively help them achieve their business objectives. How does this fit into your strategic thinking?
Product Innovation that radically changes and challenges the status quo will be what singularizes the industry leaders and leads to advancements in healthcare. But be warned, successful innovation is work. It is the byproduct of sustained effort and that requires focus, specialization, and continuous effort. And in the final analysis, it innovation that makes forward motion possible.
Bevann K. Moreland is senior vice president of payor product innovation for Beacon Healthcare Systems, home to the healthcare industry’s leading compliance and risk management technologies.