Hospitals of tomorrow need to embrace a relationship-centric model

Successful health strategy requires moving beyond today's norms to anticipate tomorrow's challenges, including addressing the increasingly shifting standards of care delivery and patient experience. For me, this means advising peers and clients about a hospital of the future–one built to encompass broader relationships across, and even outside, our health ecosystem.

Patient-centricity, as we have come to know it thus far, has become a central component of provider strategy. It feels right and of course translates into both health and business outcomes, but is it enough? Should meaningful healthcare be confined to four walls? Is it a missed opportunity to think of hospital patients only when they lie on a bed?

When building a hospital for the future, we need to consider a different paradigm that is gaining momentum: relationship-centricity. Keep the patient at the core, yes, but don’t forget the other constituent groups that can orient the hospital of the future to be a central, meaningful piece of a larger healthcare ecosystem. Knowing how to address this alternative paradigm will further enhance the level of engagement providers can have with patients for acute care needs, as well as their broader health consumer experiences.

There is no argument that driving care must always be the focus for health providers–research even shows that hospitals offering a superior patient experience have 50 percent higher margins. But what constitutes a successful health strategy has moved into a new realm, involving partnerships with pharmacies, retail fitness outfitters, energy companies, and others outside traditional healthcare standards and norms. For example, large providers are beginning to think about how to engage technology/energy companies to enhance patient outcomes through innovative opportunities that build upon advances in care delivery (e.g. employing drone technology to deliver medication to patients suffering acute episodes in remote areas where medical resources and transportation are very limited).

Relationship-centricity leverages synergies across and beyond the healthcare ecosystem to enhance how products and services are delivered. The term “care without walls” gets a lot of play, but that’s only part of the relationship-centric concept.

Traditional healthcare providers should focus on a total rebranding. Right now, most people thinking about hospitals begin and end with the following phrase: “I’m only going when I’m sick or need surgery.” A hospital should be a liaison for the patient to other relationships across the health ecosystem, making their overall experience both engaging and outcomes-focused. In turn, the provider will ultimately enable a culture and operating model that redefines what a patient “relationship” truly is.

Local and international providers alike are focusing more on offering high-value, highly complex services leveraging new technology advances and specialty skill sets. Some are gradually trying to rebrand by becoming smaller and shifting more routine procedures to community hospitals and clinics that can deliver the same outcomes.

Hospitals of the future will also focus more seriously on a digital, cloud-based strategy that uses biometrics, for example, and other means to develop workable health strategies for their communities. This will help people proactively manage their health to avoid hospital stays, while at the same time more effectively accessing relationships outside the healthcare ecosystem.

There is much work to be done in realizing a more relationship-centric model of our hospital of tomorrow. Traditional models are generally hard to shake. But the goal of the relationship-centric hospital of the future is not only worthy but inevitable as the healthcare community struggles with the complex challenges of reducing costs, delivering positive patient outcomes, and striving to serve a greater need more than ever.

Yianni Douros

Senior Manager – Strategy, Health

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