By Jessica Stebbins
The healthcare industry’s newswire is saturated with mergers and consolidations of
healthcare systems, which is a business strategy that systems have employed to increase market share and expand clinical services into communities. Because of this dynamic movement in the healthcare marketplace — and the competitive relationships among healthcare systems to increase market share and reduce overall costs —
consulting services and delivery models have evolved beyond basic services.
Many healthcare systems are practicing in both a fee-for-service and a value-based environment, even though the Affordable Care Act has been in place for several years and under threat for just as long. As a result, they have learned to practice amidst change and uncertainty, which is compounded by the unpredictability of “repeal and replace” or “repeal and repair.” There are also disrupters from the retail industry that are retooling their companies in order to offer alternative healthcare delivery models that are less expensive and easier to access.
Mergers, acquisitions, and system expansions can increase a healthcare system’s geographic area and patient volumes, expand clinical services, and elevate the organization’s profile, which can all contribute to positive financial outcomes. It’s also equally important to establish a strategy and message (prior to implementation) that brings care teams from different organizations together. This will ensure a smooth
transition, while also preventing disruptions to employee performance and the system’s overall operations. Transforming an organization’s culture and operations can be both challenging and costly if they aren’t addressed early on. Healthcare consultants are integrating business, operational, and innovative strategic thinking into one process, which allows leadership teams to co-create a new vision and mission — including a path forward.
For decades, the retail industry has been utilizing data analytics to make informed decisions regarding their business strategy and customer base. As healthcare systems move ambulatory services out of the hospital and into communities, the use of data analytics will translate information into meaningful insights. It will also help determine the geographic location, size of the facility, and the types of clinical and nonclinical services that would meet the expectations of the customer base. Healthcare systems may also consider strategically positioning facilities next to complementary businesses in order to attract new customers.
The upstream move to provide ambulatory care facilities “on every corner” is intended to increase access to primary care and specialty services conveniently and efficiently — and ultimately reduce costs and keep people out of the hospital by focusing on lifestyle instead of illness. In addition to facility location and ease of access, a branded experience that has been tailored to customers’ preferences for personal and social engagement within a built environment — and meeting their healthcare expectations — is key to attracting and retaining their loyalty. For many of our clients, our healthcare consultants are using information gleaned from data collected and patient interviews to develop customer personas based on the actual demographics of their population. This information is valuable to the design team so they can establish a concept that responds to that particular community.
The continued use of data analytics and customer surveys can provide real-time information on volumes, revenue, delivery of care, and patient satisfaction for healthcare systems. It can also identify when modifications to their business and operational models need to be made to meet changing demands.
As healthcare systems continue on their journey to grow market share through consolidation and expansion of clinical services, they will still experience market shifts and disruptors that will require them to maintain a nimble approach to changing demands. And we, as healthcare designers and consultants, have to remain nimble as well. Utilizing data analytics and integrating strategic business models with operations and innovative thinking helps maintain a competitive edge and opens the door to becoming the preferred provider of quality care within a geographic area.
Jessica Stebbins, IIDA, LEED AP, is a healthcare principal at HDR, Boston.
-Penn Medicine: University of Pennsylvania Health System: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Rendering courtesy of HDR @ 2017