There are certain things in life that we behold, which tend to elicit awe: a child being born, a rocket hurtling into outer space, and even a tech announcement in healthcare. If the latter seems a bit out of place to you, you're not alone. Today, I'd like to explore why I think this response occurs, and how a health system can respond.
Shock and Awe
Are you ready for it? Here is the awe-inspiring announcement...
Apple is launching health clinics to offer great care to their employees.
But wait, there's more!
It will open this spring under the banner of AC Wellness. They even have a website: www.acwellness.com. There will be two clinics initially, which will serve employees in Santa Clara County (where the company's headquarters are located).
Okay, I'll stop with the sarcasm. While this announcement certainly isn't awe-inspiring, it is important and impactful. Let me highlight one piece of information that I think is worth considering:
"This new primary care group — a group of clinical staff that is run independently from Apple but is dedicated to Apple employees"
Apple didn't sign up with Crossover, the VC-funded startup designed to change the onsite health clinic. They also didn't opt for El Camino Hospital – "The Hospital of Silicon Valley" – that is literally down the street from Apple HQ. No, Apple is going it alone.
This follows in the footsteps of Amazon, JP Morgan, and Berkshire Hathaway announcing their combined move to provide great care for their employees. And while this previous partnership didn't release any details on how they plan to deliver on that promise, it's a safe bet that they are thinking the same way Apple is.
Hospitals have been unable to solve issues with the patient experience and rising costs. Beyond that, though, they have also failed to address the most important thing to these employers: delivering health.
Employers are now choosing to go at it alone. Many of them believe they can utilize technology, design thinking, and an agile methodology to build a better solution, which will keep their employees healthy and happily engaged at work.
Where Do Healthcare Providers Go From Here?
Marc Harrison, President and CEO of Intermountain Healthcare, had this to say in a LinkedIn post:
"The moves by organizations like Apple and others validate the work we've been doing to transform the way we deliver care and to slow rising costs so healthcare can be more affordable. The delivery of care continues to evolve, but at the core of what we do and others are driving towards is keeping our patients and communities well and doing the things they love. We’ll continue to see change in healthcare, and we’ll innovate and evolve as well to offer the best care possible to the communities we serve."
The last sentence says it all. Change, Innovate, and Evolve. These will combine to offer the best care possible in the communities we serve.
Let's use that as the framework.
Many health systems have changed their name and branding to denote "health" instead of "care." That is a great place to start. Are your efforts designed to make you the best hospital, or even group of hospitals, in your region? Or are they designed to deliver the best health to the communities you serve?
The distinction is everything.
A hospital is focused on hospital workflows, technology, and both staff and system efficiency. A forward-thinking hospital system may even focus on these same workflows across a larger geography with partners, by participating in an ACO or HIE. The investments will be focused on staff that understands the EHR, ERP, and PACs systems.
Most of the projects will be about optimizing the use of technology to drive down cost, improve quality outcomes, and ease the burden on the clinical staff.
There is nothing bad about that list or those efforts. A system that is focused on health also does these activities within their hospitals.
However, the subtle difference is that they made the change to delivering health. Hospitals market ER wait times, new buildings, US News & World Report rankings, and new robotic procedures. Health systems focus on delivering and marketing health. They sponsor races, work with schools, go out into the community, open small centers where people live, and perform telehealth services regardless of the reimbursement.
Health and Healthcare are very different. The first step is changing our mindset. Employers want health.
The next question becomes, What is the focus of your innovation?
Is it consumer-focused? Consumers want easier-to-read bills, 24/7 access to care, simple-to-understand care instructions, and one phone number to access all services at the health system. This is the tip of the iceberg, though. They want so much more than this... you just have to ask them.
Amazon and Apple are customer-obsessed organizations. Health systems are patient-obsessed organizations. The only problem with that is that the patients in your EHR only represent a fraction of the population in the communities we serve.
If you have 20% market share, there remains 80% of the people for whom you haven't designed your services. Innovate towards the whole population.
The most important element of embracing this change is culture.
Will we see AI as a threat or as a partner in the delivery of care? Is it a cognitive trigger that helps us in our fast-paced busy day, or a threat that just made a better recommendation about my patient than I was ready to make?
Changing a culture is intentional. Choose the culture you want to develop and head in that direction. My friend Bob Perkins wrote a great article for Health Lyrics recently, about the power of the right culture. You can check it out here.
I doubt that Apple, Amazon, and the rest truly want to go it alone. But they are left with no choice, as they haven't been able to find the right partners. This may be a great opportunity for a health system to break out of the pack.
These are certainly interesting times in healthcare.