First Things First: True health system integration requires big picture focus

One option to getting things done quickly is to just dive in. And in some cases, that is the best option. However, in a recent H&HN post, author Jeff Jones, urges healthcare organizations attempting to eliminate redundancies and create true integration to resist that instinct. Healthcare leaders who think that integration “is simply a series of operational assignments and a redrawing of the org chart” couldn’t be more wrong.

Jones argues that the process should focus on the purpose of integration and what is going to be measured.

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Air Traffic Control and Healthcare?

I recently read a MedCityNews post that used an air traffic control metaphor to describe what the future of healthcare could look like. The article compares the future of hospital operations with how air traffic control’s efficient and streamlined scheduling and operations transformed air travel.

The idea of pulling together activities that if treated individually and uncoordinated could be dangerous and/or cause service disruption resonates. We look at healthcare logistics in a similar manner. How can we take activities that used to be handled individually and develop new processes and infrastructure to turn those individual components into something better?

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Systemness: Integrating to deliver seamless, cost-effective, high quality care

Systemness is a term that is being used more and more frequently in healthcare. The word itself is a bit clumsy, but its meaning very much affects our industry.

A recent post from the Advisory Board Company describes it this way, “at its essence, systemness is about integrating all aspects of a health system’s governance, operations, and workflows—across all technologies, clinicians, and locations—to deliver seamless, cost-effective, high-quality care.”

The Advisory Board recently conducted a survey of over 150 health system executives, and the conclusion was that those leaders said, “in no uncertain terms that their organizational success depends on greater integration, and greater integration depends on their ability to do concrete things that reduce variation, improve coordination, and improve the flow of information.”

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Logistic Toxicity

Like the author of a post on Forbes titled “Logistic Toxicity, An Unmeasured Burden Of Healthcare,” I too had never heard of the term “logistic toxicity.” As described, it refers to the difficulty patients who are being treated for cancer encounter when trying to deal with their treatments and the morass of separate bills they receive from separate providers over a long period of time, not to mention coordinating frequent medical appointments, arranging for time off of work, for childcare or caregiving.

All of these logistical requirements can compound the physical and financial toll of this terrible disease and the term “logistic toxicity” really got me thinking about the level of logistic toxicity that exists in our healthcare systems themselves – in addition to the emotional challenges faced by patients and their loved ones.

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The Benefits of Departmental Blurred Lines at Healthcare Organizations

Not too long ago, I wrote about how the role of healthcare CFOs have transformed from being “number crunchers” into strategic business partners within their organizations. A recent article in Becker’s Hospital CFO that focused on two specific healthcare CFOs who have more day-to-day involvement within their organizations, made me want to revisit and further explore this topic of cross-functional engagement.

With readmissions impacting reimbursement, Pamela Hess, CFO of Saint Thomas Midtown and Saint Thomas West hospitals notes that she has gotten far more involved in meetings and initiatives including quality and infection control. While these are not the places we traditionally think CFOs are involved, Hess says she has learned a lot.

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C-Suite Strategy for Successful Change: Integration is the key to reinvent healthcare

Recently, Becker’s Hospital Review convened 20 CEOs from a diverse cross-section of healthcare delivery systems around the U.S. The purpose was to learn what they (and other C-suite leaders) are doing to successfully adapt to the unprecedented change our industry is experiencing and to also examine the myriad challenges they face along the way.

One significant conclusion: in order to create successful and integrated delivery models, it’s imperative that healthcare systems break through legacy silos and acknowledge the important co-existence of horizontal and vertical integration—across boundaries of care, within and outside of a hospital structure.

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What if the Hospital of the Future is Not a Hospital?

What will the hospital of the future look like? Not that much like hospitals looked 10 years ago according to an article in HealthLeaders. That conclusion is probably not a huge surprise to those of us in healthcare who have seen the shift away from an inpatient setting as the primary care modality. And while inpatient care may still be the anchor of many health systems, its role in the continuum of care is dramatically changing.

Author Phil Betbeze writes that the hospital of the future will be “a cohesive amalgamation of plenty of outpatient modalities that represent growth in healthcare.” He goes on to point out that while this shift doesn’t mean new patient towers won’t be constructed, it does mean that any construction undertaken “will be based on adaptability, patient flow and efficiency gains.”

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Create New Organizational Structure to Successfully Reduce Costs

Annual cost reduction targets have most healthcare organizations scrambling. Despite concerted efforts, many internal cost reduction initiatives “fail to produce the level of savings required” as Liz Kirk writes in Healthcare Finance News.

Why is that? Many factors can contribute to the success or failure of an organization to achieve savings’ goals, but the most common mistake is not taking a holistic approach. Ms. Kirk contends that rather than a conventional cost reduction approach lead by the CFO, a successful initiative should include the financial and operational senior leaders, as well as support teams and cost leaders. The key is to effectively balance quality and patient satisfaction with savings.

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Sustainability for Successful Healthcare Management

Traditionally, when we hear the word “sustainability,” it conjures up ideas of the health of the environment and the idea of “going green.” And that is clearly a very large part of the sustainability movement, but the concept of sustainability extends further.

MedSpeed is a member of Practice Greenhealth, a not-for profit organization whose mission is to be “the source for environmental solutions for the healthcare sector that lends support to create better, safer, greener workplaces and communities.” Earlier this year, Laura Wenger, Executive Director of Practice Greenhealth wrote, “Sustainability isn’t just about environmental stewardship. As the [health] sector faces increased financial pressures, more hospitals and health care facilities should prioritize sustainability as a way to strategically manage rising costs.”

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Integration: Early in the game of healthcare reform

At the recent annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco—“where Wall Street meets healthcare to talk business,” according to HealthLeaders the themes ranged from preparing for the newly insured to continuing the expansion of clinically integrated networks. The conference included both for-profit and not-for-profit health systems discussing what had helped make them successful in this early stage of healthcare reform.

Clinical integration is a hot topic for any healthcare system, regardless of profit status in this early stage of healthcare reform. And that’s because success is dependent on it. As Chicago-based Advocate Health Care executive vice president Lee B. Sacks MD noted at the conference, “Clinical integration has allowed us to advance in value-based care.”

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