The coming flood of demand for chronic care requires a digital transformation strategy

Blog • Antoinette Wieman • Jan 25 • 3 min read

An OGSM change program keeps the growth of demand for inpatient care under control

"I make a new annual plan for our department every year, although not much is done with that afterwards," I recently heard a head of department say. In 2020, this will have been the case for many health care providers: the COVID crisis required all hands on deck from both the staff and management of hospitals and nursing homes. Nevertheless, when it comes to strategy, we can't afford to let 2021 be another lost year. The COVID crisis should not distract us from the work required to prepare for the massive long-term challenge that awaits us in the near future. Because a flood of new demand for health care is rising, as a result of the expontential growth of chronic conditions.

Major challenges 

As a strategic consultant, I've been paying (sometimes digital) visits to hospitals both in the Netherlands and abroad for a number of years. And it's become clear to me that the challenge that health care managers are facing is a major one. According to estimations of the RIVM (the Dutch national institute for public health), changing demographics are about to lead to an explosive growth of chronic illness. Consider diseases like arthrosis, diabetes, coronary heart disease, cancer and dementia. These are conditions that often require a great deal of long-term care, and we're facing increases ranging from 40% to almost 200%(!). Those are the kinds of exponential increases which minor budget cuts and incremental measures cannot prepare us. The problem is clear as day: demand is rising much faster than supply. How can we truly re-design our health care system to cope with the rising flood of demand? 

Digitalization as a solution

To be able to supply more chronic care without having costs explode, health care providers will have to resort to a wide range of measures. Digitalization is the common factor in all of those. One of our clients has already started with e-consults through digital portals, self-diagnostics through apps, and monitoring chronic conditions through online databases. In the slightly longer term, we can envision robots delivering some types of bedside care, as well. But these kinds of transformations don't happen by themselves. Hearts and minds have to be won, from doctors and nurses, patients and partners in the health care sector. Systems have to be developed and tested, staff has to learn to work with them, and continuous innovation will be essential to answering the explosive rise in demand in a financially sustainable way. It will ask a great deal of health care managers to successfully deliver that transformation. Good strategic planning and execution, then, are basic needs, not luxuries.

Change is inevitable 

As it stands, those essential strategic innovations aren't always on track. I recently spoke to a hospital manager who told me that 50% of their change projects hadn't yielded the desired results, while the other 50% never even got off the ground. In part, that's because personnel is so overwhelmed by COVID that no time remains for strategic innovation, but also because the strategic initiatives aren't well-defined and simultaneously draw on a limited availability of IT capacity. "All our heads of departments are convinced of the necessity to re-design how we deliver health care. But we're not used to making business cases. We need help with that," that same manager told me. And that's an understandable and encouraging response. 

Prioritizing strategy

In order to really prioritize strategic innovation, and to prevent change projects from collapsing under the pressure of urgent everyday work, it's essential to free up time, attention and focus. Make a separate strategic change plan, divorced from daily tasks, using a strategic framework like OGSM. Make sure that capable heads of departments develop business cases together with their medical counterparts, in order to achieve the goals and be able to keep meeting the estimated demand for chronic care. Train teams to understand these challenges in the context of the greater picture. Monitor strategic initiative results for feasibility and effectiveness, so that efforts can be focused on the most effective and realistic ideas. Assign owners to various elements of the change programme, set up working groups, and moreover: have the courage to free up time in people's timetables to really engage with strategic change. That might require an investment today, but it will ensure that our health care providers can continue to deliver world class services into a more demanding future.

Realize strategic change with OGSM Software

OGSM software™ is a flexible and simple cloud-based software for strategic execution. Hospitals and other care providers around the world are using it today to get and keep their strategic change projects under control. Interested in a demo, more information or a testimonial from one of our clients in the health care sector? Send us an e-mail at info@bizaline.com and we'll get in touch with you right away.

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Antoinette Wieman

Antoinette Wieman

Managing Partner

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