Over the past several years, we’ve heard a lot about escalating healthcare costs, and the industry has been dissecting its woes to find solutions. Now the Affordable Care Act is demanding immediate reforms and sequestration is impacting providers even more.
No doubt, healthcare is under enormous pressure to reduce costs safely – and fast – while reinventing the way care is provided.
Despite the challenges, I still don’t believe there’s a shortage of solutions to fix the issues with healthcare cost or quality. In fact, if you look closely, you’ll see many solutions created by those who are practicing care every day.
For example, Inova Health System in Falls Church, VA, started a sustainability journey before going “green” was popular, and have saved millions of dollars (in addition to realizing some important environmental outcomes).
From 2009 to 2011, Memorial Health System in Hollywood, FL, saved $63 million as a result of improved quality care, which also saved nearly 350 lives.
And East Alabama Medical Center reduced mortality due to sepsis by 71%, saving at least 36 lives in a relatively short period.
These are just a few examples. But I know there are an enormous number of answers in every community. I’m even more certain that today’s healthcare industry recruits some of the smartest minds on the planet, capable of creating even better solutions.
So what’s the problem?
Many people and organizations in healthcare are isolated and disconnected, solving problems in pockets and not connecting with others who are working on solving the same problems.
While there are some examples of outstanding results, it’s safe to say that effective collaboration is not the standard in healthcare, and it is certainly not systematic throughout the industry. Nearly everyone I know has experienced breakdowns in the system.
Given that the business of care is really about people helping people, I believe there’s a huge opportunity to target nearly every type of problem with collaborative efforts.
And the timing is perfect with the proliferation of social technologies that make it easy to quickly discover, learn and share knowledge with any number of people – no matter where they’re located.
According to research by McKinsey Global Institute, MIT Center for Digital Business, Capgemini, Harvard Business Review and slew of others, social technologies are providing significant opportunities to fundamentally change the way businesses work. These organizations boast statistics like:
- 18% increase in customer satisfaction
- 20% increased time to market and successful innovation
- 15% cost reduction and increased speed to knowledge and experts
- A potential productivity gain of 20% to 25% for those who fully implement social technologies
Each of these findings covers slightly different angles, but they all convey one key point: most businesses are social, and technologies that help people collaborate more effectively (social technologies) provide opportunities to improve the way people discover, learn and solve problems.
Given healthcare’s symptoms and its dependence on collaboration, social technologies are very likely to yield at least 5 big benefits:
Communicating with the public
Communicating with the public to keep us healthy (co-producing health with each of us). We’re seeing this in how the CDC and FDA communicate public health issues. And there are great examples of private organizations tapping into the wisdom of crowds to solve challenges. Here’s one where a research project called on the public to photograph and report the locations of defibrillators (AEDs) using a website or mobile application.
New ways of providing care
Many organizations are demonstrating the potential for social tools. The Institute for the Future created an online collaborative forecasting game to gather fresh ideas about the future landscape of hospitals, gaining 4,500 ideas and yielding some incredible thinking. At the very least, we need to implement incentives that encourage value over volume, as we take on inefficiencies and waste.
Solving operational and clinical challenges
The potential to reach many people and scale solutions is huge, and there have been some outstanding outcomes. One of my favorites is OPENPediatrics, a global education social platform that is improving the exchange of medical knowledge on the care of critically ill children around the world. Another interesting one is the HealthDesignChallenge, created to re-imagine and redesign the patient health record.
Gathering feedback to improve services and compete
There are so many articles on this subject, there’s even a WikiHow on how to do it! Most healthcare organizations have figured out that conversations are happening about their brands, and they have an opportunity to listen, learn, engage and influence via public media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn. In many ways, most organizations have no choice. Organizations like iWantGreatCare are reinventing the way patient feedback is gathered and used for action, and there are a growing number of sites (like Angie’s List and Healthgrades) that are using social media to grade healthcare providers. Those who choose to engage here are much more likely to have success than those who ignore it.
Helping humans connect at a fundamental emotional level
There are so many examples of this and its importance, from social media helping patients feel less lonely in hospitals, to patients connecting with other patients at PatientsLikeMe, a site that allows people to share and compare symptoms and responses to different treatments. Social technologies are also a phenomenal way to connect with staff and other key stakeholders. I like this example of a leader who encourages a connection with staff through many channels, including social media.
With the right treatment plan, there is hope. In this case, it sure seems obvious that healthcare can benefit from a heavy dose of social technologies. I’m sure I’m not alone, but I’d like to hear from you. Do you agree? What do you think?