By Geoff Martin, MBA
We see healthcare leaders tossing out their traditional playbooks and looking for more transformative ideas to solve deep-seated issues around care quality, access, and cost. For example, incremental scaling to lower costs by two to five percent per year is simply not robust enough to achieve the hundreds of millions in cost reductions needed for long-term sustainability in today’s reimbursement environment. At the same time, hospitals are coping with monumental changes in patient demographics, workforce availability, and consumer expectations that require new business models and staffing strategies to ensure quality, improve access, and drive profitability. Here are three “big swings” that leading hospitals are taking to address these challenges.
No device left unchallenged
Savvy CFOs are now demanding more for their dollars. While Variable Cost Productivity (VCP) and Return on Invested Capital (ROIC) have always been a focus at the division and department level, clients increasingly want to know how efficiently their invested capital is working at the device level. Gone are the days of installing six major pieces of capital equipment and replacing them like clockwork at their end of life. Executives are now being challenged on the care model, staffing, and utilization of nearly every asset.
Our most sophisticated clients understand the costs and the return at a device level—from MR and CT systems to outpatient surgery centers—and push operators to continually look for ways to drive out costs while enhancing the revenue from their assets. Healthcare is playing catch-up in this arena. Big-box retailers knows exactly how much each inch of shelf space contributes to their top and bottom lines and car makers calculate costs down to each rivet. Increasingly this is how healthcare providers will operate in the future—a transformation that requires next-level financial analysis, operational KPIs, alignment on strategy, and a team that is clinically, operationally, and financially aligned.
AI and analytics in every department
With executives under tremendous pressure to deliver optimal patient care and clinical outcomes with fewer resources, artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced analytics are proving to be game-changers. Spending on AI in healthcare is expected to grow at an annualized rate of 48 percent through 2023, as platforms, ecosystems, and tools emerge for everything from cancer detection and risk prediction to robotic surgery and patient flow optimization.
In 2019 alone, GE Healthcare launched more than 30 new AI-enabled devices and applications, including a deep-learning MRI app that improves image quality while lowering scan times; a mobile x-ray device with AI-based algorithms that eliminate hours of repetitive work for technologists; and an operational decision support app that at one hospital has contributed to a 52 percent reduction in excess inpatient days. Expect to see many manufacturers develop software and devices that are even smarter and more useful in tackling both incredibly complex challenges (surgery, radiology, census forecasting) as well as the repetitive but essential tasks that doctors, nurses, billers, and other professionals perform on a daily basis.
Virtual care is gaining real traction
With the maturing of technologies around remote monitoring and cloud-based data management, we see more organizations taking a fresh look at virtual care as a practical way to reach two critical goals: reduce variations in care delivery that produce sub-optimal outcomes, and extend the reach of specialized practitioners with advanced skills to more patients.
Advanced virtual care and surveillance platforms are enabling the activation of long-sought “one to many” staffing models that allow hub hospitals to provide critical care services across multiple locations, while realizing greater productivity and scale from their fixed assets and limited specialty resources. While stroke remains a key focus for virtual care, hospitals are also looking at critical care, diabetes management, sepsis surveillance, and other high-risk, high-cost conditions.
Technology is only part of the solution, of course. Moving from the physical to the virtual world of care requires a fundamental rethinking of how caregivers, care delivery processes, payment models, risk management, and support capabilities come together and a robust strategic plan to make it all work.
Geoff Martin, MBA, is Global CEO of GE Healthcare Consulting, GE Healthcare Partners.