Tomorrow's healthcare leaders must learn how to predict trends

Healthcare transformation will require leaders to hone their skills as futurists, argues a column in Hospitals & Health Networks.

The job of the hospital leader already involves trying to predict the future to some extent by definition, writes futurist Joe Flower, CEO of the Change Project, Inc., and healthcare executives are no strangers to attempting to identify emerging trends. "The question is not whether we can eliminate the flaws and predict the future. We can't," Flower writes. "The question is whether we can hone our vision to at least tell us something useful about the future, about what is more likely to happen, what is more likely to make a difference and what would be the leading indicators of which way it will go."

The secret, Flower writes, is not to view forecasting as the sum total of the strategy but rather to use it as one piece of a broader design and strategy. Key aspects of this "forecasting for strategy" school of thought include:

Establish capabilities before you actually need them: For example, if leaders can envision their organizations expanding to on-site clinics, they should "start on suspicion." Leaders must develop the necessary resources as early as possible, starting pilot programs and getting their hands on the required capital and backers.

Look for areas of need: Rather than simply running scenarios based on current operations, healthcare leaders must model scenarios in which they can profit outside of their normal wheelhouse. Start by identifying a need, Flower writes, followed by thinking about what entities would pay to fix the problem.

Stock up on general capacities: In other words, think ahead to improve organizational aspects such as financial reserves, networking and bonding capacity, according to Flowers. For smaller community healthcare organizations, this strategy has been a major driver of consolidation, FierceHealthcare previously reported.  

To learn more:
- read the column