For over 20 years, I have been working on strategies towards putting this puzzle together. Initially, I thought of developing interprofessional collaborations for primary and preventive care professionals to create better treatment protocols to improve health outcomes. Interprofessional Collaborations are cooperatives where the combined expertise of professionals from different health care modalities blends their efforts for better care of the collective client experience.
In their book, Redefining Healthcare professors Teisberg and Porter put forth the idea of treatment teams who treat treatment groups based on scientific data that determine the best treatment modalities. These treatment teams use analytics, which provides scientific treatment cues that are clinically and economically sound health care practices. Treatment groups are comprised of a population subset, i.e. 45 – 60 year old African American women. Analytic data is readily available providing what works best for given population group.
By utilizing analyzed data, medical and preventive care professionals can focus their treatments on result-oriented care and improve health outcomes. This practice would move care from volume centered (sustainability tied to the number of clients visits) towards specific customer care. As industry leaders begin addressing the changes occurring the needle is starting to shift.
In 2013, the medical SWOT analysis detailing the future of healthcare revealed a convergence of primary care practitioner’s merging or consolidation of their private practice with larger physician and hospital groups. The move to merge primary care practitioners into larger groups is driven primarily by profit and not developing best practices. Mergers and consolidations always have the potential of consolidating and not expanding care ideas.
Primary care physicians already facing extinction due to low graduation numbers as more medical students seek practices that provide more specialized care are also being squeezed by their industry to merge with larger operations. By merging with larger operations, physicians lose their autonomy to seek out best practices and essentially become employees of the larger group. Researchers fear this will ultimately diminish innovative care ideas while driving profits up of the larger group.
Driving mergers and acquisitions are the challenging financial situations faced by too many private practicing physicians. Medical reimbursement reduction problems are reported by 81% of primary care physicians, 71% report rising operating cost and 43% are having problems covering their monthly expenses. Forty-nine percent of doctors who have accepted a merger report not receiving a wage increase in 2 years and 18% report having their salaries cut. Merged physicians also report losing their autonomy, which challenges integrating into the larger organization.
Preventative care providers like exercise providers and alternative health practitioners have also seen their numbers decline as more consumers use technology and group environments for their services. Preventative care refers to practitioners who provide services that work to prevent the cause or causes of disease by reducing risk factors associated disease. Technologies such as YouTube, fitness trackers and group fitness camps provide customers an economical venue with a social component.
Data from the CDC, suggest that physical activity has risen slightly over the past decade. Younger adults drive the increase in physical activity over the past decade between 18 and 25. Women fall short of men at every age level. Technology might be able to take some credit.
People seem to enjoy physical activity that has a social or challenge component. For example, accounting departments competing against engineering departments for most steps in a month with some company recognition attached. Fitness tracking software allows users to create their group or join existing groups. Young and old can sign up for the traditional 5k, half marathon, bike rides, etc. or sign up for an adventure run where they are challenged with obstacles course, mud or agility.
Adventure activities are growing consistently year after year. Research shows that while consumers use technology, they are not consistent. Tracking progress is exciting for some but requires consistent lifestyle adaptation. Researchers discovered 42% stop using their fitness tracker after six months. Innovators and entrepreneurs have their work cut out for them if they want to capture and maintain consumers’ attention.
I’ve always relied heavily on data (information) and research during the creative process. Research provides a detailed look at process discoveries on current issues. Of course, we are limited by the research process. What researchers choose to examine. The scope of the research project and how it is put together. Data can reveal hidden gems and inform us of what’s happening. Collective data can be more revealing than research because it can provide quantifiable evidence of actual practices. If you want to know what is working and what is not, look at the data. Human error is the only threat to data interpretation. Data collection may provide output errors, but the output is accurate insomuch as the input is correct.
We’ve all heard how data would and could make decisions more efficient by steering us toward best choices for positive outcomes. Much like computers will not be overthrowing the world anytime soon, data’s potential to transform industries like health care is still off into the future. Data’s transformative capabilities are ready and able; human ethics and moral challenges are concerning.
There are three areas I want to address regarding universal data analysis, understanding there are ethical and moral concerns. Three of the biggest challenges are uniform standard, widespread acceptance and innovation. Currently, there is not a universal standard for data, think HD versus Blue-ray DVD. One facility may be using one format, while the facility across the road may be using another. This makes data comparison tedious and prohibits in many cases cross comparison. Formatting is a major problem, especially for end user interactions. Until standardization of data collection, purpose, format and user specifics are sorted, reading data across platforms is too time-consuming and inefficient.
Widespread acceptance is lacking due to the lack of standardization. Users understand the potential benefits. However, the risk and hassle are too high. Back in the HD versus Blue-ray wars some movies would only come out in HD which was useless if you owned a Blue-ray player. Because of the lack of standardization design and implementation can be costly for purchasers. Entrepreneurs developing products to meet the needs of this audience must be mindful of these constraints. Data technologies are slow to come online due to the risk aversion of department heads.
The most risk-averse employees are upper-level managers and those at the bottom of the food chain. In most companies there aren’t many of these people. Most individuals in an organization are concerned with the career track. They have mortgages, car notes, kids and a host of other things that keep them in check. They cannot risk backing a new idea, which could tank and send their careers into the toilet. The greatest population of this type of employee are those in the middle rungs of an organization.
Employees at the bottom have nothing to lose; they can afford to support and develop innovative initiatives. If the idea bombs, they do not have far to fall. Conversely, upper-level managers built a career of capital in the company and can afford to support or develop innovative initiatives because they’ve developed a failure buffer. Physician employees, whose business merged with a larger group, are more likely to be risk averse. They probably chose to merge with a larger group for the safety it provided.
Fear of change, being averse to risk are real. Change is tough. The fact is we do not like change. Also true is we are terrible judges of new ideas, especially when they are outside our area of expertise. However, that will not stop people from rejecting an idea. The risk is real and in highly competitive fields making the wrong choice could be disastrous. Making a decision, only someone with a crystal ball could tell. The fact is sticking with any decision too long likely produces bad results. I heard a CEO state about decision making; we make a decision then we make it right.