Change Agents in a Digital Healthcare World: People, Culture and Strategy
By Charles Koontz, President & CEO, GE Healthcare IT & Chief Digital Officer, GE Healthcare
If there’s one thing that’s constant in healthcare today, it’s change. While one could argue that the industry has been in a constant state of evolution, with cutting-edge research and the development of life-saving medical technology, the reality is that change today is different. We’re not just talking about new treatments and solutions. We’re talking about the radical reworking of business models and the creation of entirely new value networks. We’re talking about a transformation in people, culture, and strategy to address healthcare’s greatest challenges—cost, quality and access.
Indeed, when the healthcare industry looks in the mirror today, its reflection closely resembles the technology industry. The two sectors are colliding at rocket speed. The digital health vision has never been more compelling.
So what does it take for a healthcare company to become a technology company, and for a hospital to become a networked, data-driven center of care? It begins with people— leaders who can serve as change agents and top digital talent who can bring new ways of thinking into the workplace. Although a 2015 PWC report found that only 6 percent of the world’s top 1,500 companies had created the position of Chief Digital Officer or equivalent, there has been a steady increase in new and reimagined C-suite roles. For example, Chief Information Officers are now being repositioned as Chief Innovation Officers, moving from the back office of enterprise operations to the forefront of innovation in customer engagement, products, services and supply chain.
“Healthcare is becoming as digital as social media or online shopping”
In addition, teams are bringing in fresh talent from the outside— traditional techies who are drawn to the mission of leveraging data to improve lives. Beyond skills in analytics, programming and UX/UI, they bring with them the ability and desire to move fast, take risks and experiment. In an industry that, for good reason, has so often colored within the lines, the fail fast and learn mentality has been slow to catch on. New talent can help demonstrate the value of that approach in healthcare—how to bring solutions to market more quickly while continuing to meet regulatory requirements and standards. They can diversify thinking and question processes previously accepted as a fixed reality. While potentially uncomfortable, new roles are an important and necessary catalyst for change.
And these champions of change are tasked with much more than developing and integrating technology. They must drive a digital culture where the conversation is no longer about a single issue or a siloed organization but about increasing efficiencies across an entire ecosystem. For example, at GE Healthcare, we are encouraging employees to engage in a “Keep It Simple” campaign, which calls on teams to submit ideas for making work easier internally and for creating a better customer experience. The campaign is driven by FastWorks—a framework that encourages speed, responsiveness and iteration.
But campaigns like “Keep It Simple” have little impact without a strong, overarching digital vision. Indeed, people and culture can only succeed when supported by a clear strategy and good governance. The decisions made regarding partnerships, acquisitions, investments and divestments must align with the message communicated to the workforce and the culture driven by leadership. As digital strategy and business strategy become synonymous, it’s important for leadership to communicate the “why” and “how” of change.
By adapting our people, culture and strategy, healthcare is becoming as digital as social media or online shopping. And the impact of this transformation is profound. At the center of healthcare is the patient. And at the center of improving patients’ lives is technology.