3 ways healthcare leaders can weather industry changes

Healthcare leaders dealing with fast-paced industry changes should follow three strategies, according to Permanente Medical Group Chief Executive Officer Robert Pearl, M.D., in a Forbes opinion piece.

Kaiser Permanente members in Northern California are 30 percent less likely to die of a heart attack or stroke than patients elsewhere in the state, as well as 40 percent less likely to die from sepsis and 50 percent less likely to die from HIV or AIDS than other patients nationwide, writes Pearl.

"These results didn't happen by chance," he says. "They're a product of our organizational approach and culture. Although being part of a fully integrated medical group has its unique advantages, we've noticed that three distinct approaches have helped Kaiser Permanente fast-track improvements in a traditionally sluggish industry."

Pearl's three strategies are:

  1. "Appeal to the heart over the head or the pocketbook." Kaiser concerns itself with numbers only so far as they help it improve patient health and experience, Pearl writes. That's why the organization emphasizes clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction scores to tailor care to patient well-being, and eschews fee-for-service care models that provide incentives for quantity instead of quality. "And because our physicians don't work for an insurance company, they don't need to obtain authorization for testing, referrals or hospital admission," he says.

  2. Make innovations on a micro level but share results on a macro level. "Many organizations make one of two mistakes," Pearl writes. "Either they only drive change from the top or they encourage local innovation but fail to spread the best solutions far and wide." Solutions work best, he says, when they start small and leaders scale them up to work for the entire system. Kaiser typically seeks out effective local initiatives, Pearl writes, "[a]nd when we find them, we teach everyone what we've learned."

  3. Invest in technology proactively. Although many businesses hesitate to invest during times of economic pressure, this is a mistake, he says. Healthcare providers can't afford to fall behind in information technology, which is why Kaiser implemented an electronic medical record (EMR) system nearly 10 years ago. "We also recognize that an EMR is just the first step toward using technology for superior patient care," he says. Kaiser has also stepped up training to prioritize HIPAA compliance, FierceHealthIT previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the opinion piece