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Are We Ready for Healthcare 3.0?

By Jim Thomas, Ph.D.

I recently attended my niece’s graduation ceremony at a small, rural high school in the southeast United States. In many ways, my niece’s graduation was fairly typical. There was familiar music, the caps and gowns, the procession across the stage to get the diplomas, and a commencement address that inspired the graduates to go out and be leaders, achievers, dream followers, and “difference makers.”

Are We Ready for Healthcare 3.0?But in other ways, it was different. The senior class was small, with only 35 seniors, and this left time in the program to hear the graduates’ personal stories and their future aspirations.

What struck me most about these stories was the large number of kids—roughly half the graduating class—who plan to pursue careers in healthcare. I found myself wondering, “Do these future leaders and ‘difference makers’ have any idea about the career that awaits them in the most turbulent and dynamic sector of the U.S. economy?”

Are they ready for Healthcare 3.0?

Much has been written over the last several years about the future of healthcare. Whether one buys into an IT-driven “Healthcare 3.0” or the more human-centered vision of “Health 3.0” espoused by physician turned hip-hop phenomenon ZDoggMD, it’s clear that these new graduates are about to enter a field undergoing tremendous, ongoing change.

By the time these young people finish their professional training, the world of healthcare will be radically different. Healthcare providers will be fully engaged in a world where value-based payments are the norm, “fee-for-service” is only a distant memory, and “high tech” unwittingly takes precedence over “high touch.”

They will be expected to provide a high standard of care, while offering suggestions for improvement, contributing to innovation, and driving efficiency. They will find that being good at what you do will not be good enough—driving continuous improvements and enhancing quality will be the minimum standard for performance.

And, forget “steady state.” There will be no “steady state.” Healthcare professionals will work in a dynamic world of constant change. Individuals who cherish continuity, predictability, and routine will be disappointed and frustrated.

On the other hand, the "difference makers"—who enjoy taking on new challenges, working out new processes, experimenting, and constantly learning—will enjoy the ride of their lives.

This maelstrom of change will not only focus on quality outcomes; it also will place increasing emphasis on the patient (and patient’s family’s) experience. Delivering medically excellent and efficient procedures may be the core of what a healthcare professional does today, but this performance bar, like others, will be dramatically higher in Healthcare 3.0. Healthcare professionals will be required to have exceptional “customer service” skills (which can be taught) and a passion for delivering exceptional care (which can’t).

Another huge upheaval awaiting these new graduates is the shift away from acute care. The increasing number of wellness programs and the mushrooming interest in population health suggest that those in today’s most common healthcare jobs (i.e., nurses and allied health workers) will be part of a much larger, more tightly integrated professional community. “Difference makers” of the future will need to be hyper-collaborative and highly adept at teaming. They also will need to understand how what they do connects to a much larger healthcare eco-system.

ZDoggMD refers to Health 3.0 as a world where “…each member of the healthcare team supports one another while bringing their unique gifts to bear.” That’s a far cry from the current state, where doctors and nurses are still learning how to partner effectively and members of siloed professional disciplines are only just beginning to reach across boundaries to create a truly seamless continuum of care.

As I considered whether these "difference makers" had any inkling of what lies ahead for them, I also was struck by how much the typical graduate remains the same. As far as I can tell, aside from the presence of a cell phone always at the ready, the typical high school graduate hasn’t changed all that much since I’ve been stuffing money into graduation cards and trooping off to commencement ceremonies. (As it happens, I have 18 nieces and nephews!)

And then it hit me. If Healthcare 3.0 demands dramatically higher performance requirements, how will these eager, young “difference makers” rise to the occasion? Will they have the agility, empathy, and extraordinary interpersonal skills to reinforce the human connection that is at the core of Healthcare 3.0? The finger dexterity required for firing off pithy text messages and the ability to select fun emojis just won’t cut it.

I have little hope that our educational institutions will do much more to prepare these young people than what they are already doing today, which is, generally, providing fantastic education and training in the technical skills required of healthcare professionals. But unless curriculums change dramatically, these institutions won’t develop in these healthcare professionals of the near future the “soft skills” (i.e., interpersonal interaction, collaboration, and network building) and leadership skills they will need to be true “difference makers” in Healthcare 3.0.

At the end of the day, I think that the workforce of the future will need to be developed by the workplace of the future.

This isn’t too much to ask of healthcare organizations. Research published recently by DDI demonstrates that well-designed “soft skills” and leadership training initiatives can dramatically enhance skills that lead to continuous improvement, workforce engagement, team effectiveness, customer/patient satisfaction, and even financial outcomes.

Healthcare 3.0 is coming whether any of us are ready for it or not. The organizations that prosper in this new environment will be those that acknowledge the need to prepare future leaders and “difference makers” with the skills they will need, and then make the necessary investments.

Those that don’t will likely find that they are perpetually frustrated in their attempts to meet both their own high standards and patient demands for the integrated delivery of patient-centered care that results in quality outcomes.

Jim Thomas, Ph.DJim Thomas, Ph.D., is a DDI vice president who’s held a variety of roles spanning consulting, business development, and general management in his 23+ years with the organization. His work has literally taken him around the world, including extended expat assignments to the Middle East and China.

Aside from his passion for helping organizations acquire and engage talent, Jim’s personal interests mirror his active, globe-trotting DDI career. He’s a private pilot, an accomplished sailor, and an avid motorcyclist. That blur that just whizzed by? Yeah, that was Jim.

Learn more about DDI’s solutions for your healthcare talent in today’s complex industry.

Posted: 01 Aug, 2017,
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