Time for Change; Positive Disruption to the Medical Cocoon

Every year 187,000 people die from medical errors and hospital-acquired infections in the United States. In fact, it is the third highest cause of death. To make matters worse, among the advanced economies of the world, the U.S. spends the most on healthcare with one of the worst outcomes, ranking 46thin efficiency. In comparison, Canada ranks 17th and Mexico 15th, according to a Bloomberg report.  As a father of four, hearing statistics like this often makes me shudder. But with the new year fresh, there is one thing that has brought me comfort when thinking about our healthcare model; the wide spread realization that it is indeed time for change.

For some time there has been dissatisfaction with this unbalanced healthcare equation– among patients, insurers, government, and within healthcare organizations that strive for excellence. Finally the chatter and debate has turned to action and we are embarking on a new era. Are all the answers known? No. But in the industry overall, everyone is passionate about making a positive change and moving away from the healthcare model of a bygone day.

The desire to change is being fueled by unacceptable outcomes, unsustainable costs and continued advancements in technology.  As we see the transformation that is taking place, we can frame our thinking around  three primary tensions:

  1. The industry is beginning to shift from a volume-based model to a value-based model.
  2. Healthcare participants are shifting from a passive to a more active role in their care.
  3. Siloed healthcare processes are becoming more open and collaborative interactions.

In today’s health systems, evaluation and reimbursement are based on the quantity of care provided – whether or not patients see positive results. We’re moving to a new system, where volume is replaced with value, and compensation is based around providing successful outcomes and creating satisfying experiences. This is evident in things such as rapid consolidation and acquisition into large regional and national organizations offering an opportunity to create value-based care models. Also the new legislation and policy reform through the Affordable Care Act is intended to drive more accountability in health organizations, and increase demand for healthcare.

We’re moving away from directive, one-way processes – intensive interactions punctuated with unproductive waiting or transition times that drain emotional resources and waste the precious resource of time. And we’re moving toward everyone in a healthcare experience participating actively in learning and collaborative decision-making. We’re also moving from disconnected, complicated processes that inhibit behavior change, to collaborative, democratic modes that fuel better outcomes.

This is the new reality. The healthcare journey needs to be an integrated one. One that facilitates connections between patients, families and clinicians. One that enables people to take control of the journey, and their health in general. Amid all this change, still often overlooked or underemphasized, however, is the role of the physical space and the design of the physical space in creating this integrated experience. Faced with such sweeping changes, healthcare organizations should not overlook an asset that’s highly leverageable and pivotal to success; their spaces. There is a significant opportunity to strategically rethink how healthcare spaces can dramatically improve the experiences of everyone involved.

With all the pressing demands on healthcare leaders today, it is understandable that the consideration of how the physical space can have a significant impact on patient behavior and indeed on clinician behavior is dismissed. Reimagining healthcare starts with insights about what people want and need. Reinvention of space starts with insights that result from rigorous study of what physicians and patients need and want, and what they actually do in a space. When both are married, it can have a significant effect on how fast we move towards a better quality of care for everyone involved and how seamlessly these changes come to fruition. 

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