How healthcare leaders can achieve '20/20 vision'

The healthcare landscape has changed so rapidly in recent years it can seem like a daunting proposition to try to predict what it will do next. However, failure to look to the future is a crucial mistake that many healthcare leaders make, according to healthcare policy expert Paul Keckley, Ph.D.

Many healthcare organizations suffer from a nearsighted approach, writes Keckley, managing director for the Navigant Center for Healthcare Research and Policy Analysis. They focus on immediate pressures, such as cost reduction, consolidation, the transition to value-based care, and price and outcomes transparency. When these issues occupy most or all of their attention, they have a skewed idea of healthcare's long-term future, he says.

Other healthcare agencies and organizations, on the other hand, suffer from farsightedness, Keckley writes. In these cases, focusing on the long term can lead them to neglect the day-to-day competencies and cultural shifts necessary to achieve their more distant goals.

It's possible for organizations with both problems to correct them, according to Keckley. The happy medium between the two involves access to capital, a clear view of how all of the key sectors in healthcare work, and an understanding of issues such as consumerism, alternative care models and social determinants of population health.

To strike a balance between the two extremes, boards of directors must promote outside-the-box thinking, self-assessment and across-the-board knowledge of how multiple sectors within healthcare operate. Senior managers must be ready to treat this "visual impairment" within healthcare organizations from the top down, and be prepared to conduct regular self-assessments. Leaders must identify these issues early to minimize damage, particularly as many organizations have a culture that views such internal assessments as an "expression of weakness," according to Keckley.

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