Working as an executive coach and strategy consultant within the healthcare marketplace provides a unique perspective. Over the past couple of years Ive found myself engaged in projects with global, multi-billion dollar medical device corporations, leading teaching hospitals, information technology leaders, investor-driven start-ups, and regional hospital systems. It has delivered an interesting vantage point to witness the foreshadowing healthcare reform has donned across the landscape. While many of the changes are still yet to come, the impetus of change is already rippling through the sector.
Having the opportunity to see things unfold from both sides of the medical device/hospital, producer/consumer relationship does not go unappreciated. It is a privileged overlook that reveals not only the drivers behind a rapidly changing marketplace, but the initiatives both sides of this symbiotic relationship are scrambling to implement.
Two major shifts are occurring, one leading inevitably to the other. First, hospitals are moving towards evidence-based care. I know this may sound a bit odd and disconcerting to the lay person (i.e. patient) who looks towards medicine and the practice of it as science. Is not science always evidence-based? Well yes, of course it is, in the laboratory or clinical trial. But clinical medicine is delivered through a practice. While we all trust that surgeons and physicians are guided and steeped in the science of medicine, we must also appreciate that once theyre in practice medicine continues to evolve scientifically and technologically.
Medical science does not stand still. The nearly $30 billion in annual, research tax dollars invested by the National Institutes of Health is pushing the envelope forward at an ever-accelerating pace. And this figure doesnt include the private research and development dollars of biopharmaceutical and medical device companies. In fact, it has recently been projected that humankinds scientific knowledge is doubling every five years. How many peer-reviewed, clinical studies can we expect even the finest surgeons and medical practitioners to read every year? Surgeons and physicians do the best they can to keep pace with the state of the science, but traditionally, they practice medicine within a relatively small community of peers, institutions, and colleagues. The practice of clinical medicine, unlike many other technologically-driven industries, has been fragmented. All of the critical-to-quality variables that have been captured, analyzed, and applied in aeronautics, electronics, software, automotive engineering, pharmaceutical manufacturing, even the frying of the perfect fast-food french fry have been unattainable in clinical medicine. Until now.
The federal requirements for automating patient records is unleashing a new age in medicine. And patient records are just the beginning. The application of informatics, the ability to capture large, statistically significant pools of clinical data regarding demographics, genetics, presenting conditions, treatments, surgical procedures, peri-operative care, and patient outcomes is driving a seismic shift in how medicine will be practiced in the future. It is probably the last frontier, the last industry to benefit from transposing raw data into cogent information that will dramatically effect quality, costs, and the standardization of processes to optimize both of these factors simultaneously.