By Deirdre Baggot, MBA, Ph.D., Senior Vice President, The Camden Group and Kimberly Hartsfield, MPA, Vice President, The Camden Group
Few would argue that this may be one of the most exciting times in healthcare – volatile and disruptive, yet also transformative and empowering for those organizations and innovative leaders who are able to move markets by embracing “fusion” reimbursement models. While not all leaders have relished these challenges, many of their more adaptable and failure tolerant counterparts are at the forefront of payment transformation and reconceiving their payer strategy today. Now is the time to for true transformation, and those innovators who meet the changes head-on are far more likely to succeed than their overly cautious counterparts, who may well find themselves left behind. Here are the top ten strategies of transformational leaders who are taking the healthcare “bull by the horns” and redesigning their business model to seize the inherent opportunity of payment transformation.
1. Have great timing
In an era of payment transformation, building value is not enough. Moving from building value to extracting and trading value requires appropriate timing. The inherent threat of demand destruction that both bundled payments and ACOs drive require many providers to reconceive their business model. The key is to time new payer arrangements with the redesign of the care models. The transformation is already well underway, and the clock is ticking for those who have not embraced this as their future.
2. Risk is your friend
Risk is described as the gap between opportunity and success. Without it, the greatest opportunities an organization holds will not have the possibility to develop. Organizations are charting new territory, and creating success in the future is contingent upon leadership’s willingness to “run to risk.” Keeping an open mind and viewing the future from a broad perspective will allow an organization to identify opportunities for risk that make sense. Risk tolerance goes hand in hand with failure tolerance (see number 7).
3. Think like Google
In industry transformation, talent becomes the linchpin asset. Identifying all-stars and empowering them in a way never done before may mean beginning to build teams that look more like a group of Google interns. Ask them what unproductive activities are they wasting their time on each day? Who are the creative thinkers within the organization, and how much time are they spending envisioning the future? An organization must continually innovate to stay ahead of competitors, while recognizing both its market and the healthcare industry are in a rapid state of flux. A wait and see approach will not cut it. The experience people (both customers/patients as well as internal audiences) have within a system must be described as prompt/quick, high value, high quality, responsive, and personalized. These core principles must permeate everyday culture.
4. Execution matters...a lot
The ability to execute is not inherent among all leaders. When it comes to payment transformation and complex change, it is often assumed that that a critical change can be “assigned” – and that is flawed thinking. Masterful execution requires process, project, and conflict management, as well as sharp communication skills, and most importantly, the ability to influence others. Time and again, seemingly good ideas are lost on poor execution. Payment reform becomes the impetus for care delivery reform which is a heavy lift. Simplifying the plan and managing the execution process will keep you on path to smart execution and foster the commitment to change.
5. The imperative to adopt new payment models
Bundled payments are a natural introduction to value-based care delivery as the entry point is low, the investment is lower than ACOs by comparison, and the yield can be high. Certain other shared savings models with payers as your partner can also yield results in a relative “safe” environment. Bundled payment programs are moving out of the pilot stage and are becoming an integral part of healthcare finance in many markets. Many of the pilot initiatives focused on inpatient hospital stays and physicians performing procedures in high cost, high volume specialties like orthopedics and cardiology. Bundles are expanding across the care continuum into both the outpatient and post-acute arenas. Also, we are seeing many new joint venture arrangements with payers to facilitate population health management experience in commercial, Medicare, and Medicaid markets. The point is, successful leaders are pursuing new payment models rather than shying away.
6. The next “dream deal" (Hint: It’s not a volume play)
No healthcare provider or setting is an island. The kind of thinking that connects cross-setting care delivery will change the world of healthcare in the United States. The next dream deal can be summarized in one word: Partnership. Successfully managing risk under the evolving reimbursement structures requires organizations to look beyond their four walls for partners to complete the care continuum, provide new capabilities, and live up to the goal of delivering patient-centered care. Partnership evaluation efforts across multiple healthcare stakeholders must be fact-based through a comprehensive market assessment. In a perfect world, who do you see as your long-term partners? What partnerships have you not considered that you should? Are you philosophically aligned with this potential partner? Are their practitioners and executive staff well aligned with yours? How do they perform on cost, quality, and customer satisfaction metrics, as well as key metrics like readmission rates, compared to their peers? Asking the key questions early will prevent the dream deal from becoming a nightmare.
7. Failure tolerance as a leadership best practice
Managing “fusion” reimbursement models requires an understanding that innovation is the hardest work to do, and failure is not failure at all--rather, it is just a data point on the journey to transformation. Failure cannot be personalized, and future leaders understand the need to “roll with it” and move quickly through tests of change. Tomorrow’s healthcare leaders are “disruptive innovators” who do not subscribe to a “culture of nice,” are not afraid to fail, and are not constrained by the political implications of killing a bad project. These leaders view failure as merely new information and are already on to the next innovation. In order to effectively compete in a time of industry transformation, the really great leaders, those capable of transforming organizations, will demonstrate a high degree of failure tolerance.
8. The courage imperative
The healthcare leaders who will survive understand that courage and bravery shape the kind of thinking needed to spur payment transformation. Transforming the way care is delivered is not an overnight exercise and requires extraordinary courage. This includes saying “no” to unsustainable cost structures, but not through slash-and-burn tactics, which are largely short-term fixes. Success with bundled payments or any risk-based reimbursement model requires the courage to speak truth to waste and duplication and resulting behaviors of fee-for-service.
Assumptions underlying collaboration and innovation are changing. The collaboration and innovation necessary to thrive during the payment reform mash-up do not happen over conference calls or in cubicles. Chance cafeteria encounters and hallway conversations are strategic opportunities to break down silos and achieve break-through care transformation. There is a natural rhythm to collaboration that is rooted in trust and transparency. Smart leaders are asking themselves how to best foster, enable, and invest in proximity. Face-to-face connections, often occurring on the front-lines, are communication tools, and innovation sessions must be promoted.
Cross-discipline, cross-setting collaboration is the vehicle that enables innovation. Tomorrow’s successful leaders demonstrate a unique ability to collaborate, even when it means partnering with their “frenemies.” It is not personal, nor is it about burying the competition. It is about promoting and achieving health in the community. That said, collaboration done poorly can lead to endless meetings and costly delays. Being open, intuitive, and deliberate about how and when to collaborate has never been more critical for healthcare executives.
10. Payment reform best practices are still evolving
“First Generation” transformation is not the end game; however this does not give an organization a “pass” to do nothing. The devil is in the details. Methodologies are being refined and improved. Care patterns are being altered. Transparency in healthcare is increasing exponentially. Payers and providers alike want an industry standard defining the “new normal” that outlines those best practices and makes this transition straightforward with clear timelines. Those organizations that choose to embrace payment reform now have the ability to help lead and shape the future of what those best practices look like.
As we have seen in other industries, such as the rise and fall of the dotcom era, true leaders must accept nothing less than breakthrough innovation and must understand that technology will never replace the importance of high-quality relationships grounded in trust, courage, collaboration, and innovation. Actively, energetically, yet thoughtfully pursuing new payment models, such as bundled payments, offers current leaders a wonderful sandbox to implement innovative strategies today that will enable them to thrive tomorrow.
Ms. Baggot is a senior vice president at The Camden Group. She is a nationally recognized thought leader in bundled payments and was selected by CMS and the Innovation Center to serve as an expert panelist in Models 2 and 3 application reviews for the Bundled Payments for Care Improvement initiative. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303.335.7047.