Future-Proofing the Business of Healthcare

Strategic planning is a key element for long-term viability in any organization. In healthcare organizations, leaders contend with challenges related to the rapid pace of change that contradict the steadfast models most continue to operate within. Technological advances, economic conditions, and world events can affect operations at hospitals and other healthcare facilities in unpredictable ways. Strategic plans now need options instead of a straight-line to execute on.

Knowing that dramatic change is not only possible but also likely, it’s incumbent on leaders in healthcare delivery to consider multiple strategies for the future. Planning for growth with a flexible, multi-faceted strategic plan is at the core of future-proofing your organization.

Reality Shocks the Healthcare System

Let’s take a look at a real-life example. For many years, healthcare systems operated on an “if you build it, they will come” philosophy. The core of healthcare delivery was centralized facilities where a steady flow of patients could come for treatment. The systems were unprepared for the seismic shock of the COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly, healthcare delivery systems had to operate under unprecedented strain, with restrictions on what services they could provide, how many patients they could accommodate, and with tremendous demand on staff.

The unanticipated disruption to core services meant healthcare facilities struggled to adapt. As a result, they faced a dramatic loss of operational efficiency, reduced trust from the public and internal staff, and subsequently, a hit to revenue. At the same time, providers had to scramble to innovate new ways to deliver care to patients whose needs had not changed even though the ability to access them had. As a result, healthcare systems sustained catastrophic reputation and financial losses from their inability to pivot operational models, and many have failed to rebound even after time has passed..

Creating Opportunities While Delivering Care

As healthcare systems have reassessed their future plans post-COVID, it’s become evident that the industry will need to adopt an innovator mindset in order to become future-proof. Placing importance and focus on new opportunities such as increasing research capacity at healthcare facilities, adding mobile health technologies for hospital-to-home treatment, and increasing virtual services are just a few innovations that can broaden the scope of services healthcare systems can offer. A growing menu of new functions will increase adaptability and the ability to pivot in the face of future shocks.


What Does It Mean to Be Future-Proof?

Healthcare systems have long been able to create a three- to five-year plan for the future and expect to follow it through to completion. However, the pace of innovation now is so much faster that it’s impossible to predict the state of the technological environment in five months, let alone five years. To gain a competitive advantage in the current environment, organizations must be agile and adaptive to technological changes, consumer expectations, and unpredictable external events like the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

Future-proofing requires leaders in healthcare to anticipate possible impacts and disruptions to current operations and engage in strategy and planning to minimize the effects of shocks and stresses from future events. Successful future-proofing involves embracing several key concepts:

  • The future is not defined solely by where the market is going but includes areas like evolving workforce preferences, customer expectations, and regulatory environments.
  • Shocks and stresses are typically focused on financial impacts but must be considered much more broadly. The ability to do work in the current status quo, equity, ESG (environmental, social, governance), pandemics, changes of power, and new entrants all act as possible disruptions.
  • Organizational agility is key to future-proofing and managing the pace of change. There are additional growth methodologies that can increase overall resilience and durability during times of change.

In practice, this means planning to sustain core functions while also planning to innovate new growth and development opportunities – enter edge-core thinking. By incubating and implementing new edge functions, organizations grow diverse strategies to address future challenges and changing industry demands.

Adopting Edge-Core Thinking

An organization’s core business is what they know best, and making significant changes to this core can be a risky endeavor. Rather than trying to shift core functions, organizations can adopt a strategy that allows them to innovate new functions that sit at the edge of their operating structure. The main principles of edge-core thinking include:

  • Focus on the edges: Identify the edges based on key characteristics that align with your business model and external trends. Have a mix of short-term and long-term edges that your organization can pursue simultaneously.
  • Starve the edge: Force the edge to be self-sufficient through external support by minimizing core resources that are dedicated to the edge. Empower edge teams to engage external partners and/or ecosystems.
  • Move fast, fail fast: Evaluate the progress of edges every six to twelve months and make critical go/no-go decisions. Embrace double standards by using different success metrics for the edge offerings than you do for the core.

Ultimately, with the right structure and planning process in place, organizations can develop and adopt successful edge functions without disrupting core operations.

Future-Proofing with Innovation Ecosystems

Partnerships are powerful. Not only do they help to drive change, but they bring together multiple parties who come to the table with unique strengths and perspectives. Ecosystems are created to enhance these partnerships by connecting the right people to one another for true innovation and transformation. Commonly seen models include:

  • Strategic Conglomerate: This model includes a main player (conglomerate) who will invest in or partner with multiple companies. Since funding is the main aspect of this relationship, there is less structure around the definition of the growth strategy and less importance is placed on partners being interrelated or leveraging one another’s capabilities.
  • Ecosystem Curator: This model focuses on how a subset of companies can interact to bring a unique offering to market. The main player (curator) will set the vision and proactively bring together the right partners to form the desired ecosystem structure and purpose. This allows partner companies to maintain key capabilities while adjusting their offerings to account for changes in the landscape.
  • Solution Purveyor: This model includes a main player (purveyor) who will own leading capabilities or offerings that are utilized by others within the ecosystem or across multiple ecosystems. This model allows companies to solely focus on core capabilities while creating upside value by their solution being utilized across partners in an ecosystem or throughout multiple ecosystems.

There is no doubt that ecosystems will continue to drive value, but there will be evolution to the models over time.


11TEN’s Future-Proofing Efforts and Innovation Ecosystem

At 11TEN, we encourage our partners to concentrate on developing future-proofing strategies. We constantly scan the marketplace across all of healthcare to be able to alert our partners to any significant shifts on the horizon and have meaningful conversations toward mitigating the impacts. Our goal is to create long-lasting and deep relationships with partners to ensure continued success. With the additional power of our Ecosystem, partners are able to continue their core operations and initiatives, while sharing resources and perspectives from other organizations that can positively impact their next project or future strategies. To learn more about how the right partnerships can future-proof your organization, contact us today.