It’s Time to Disrupt the Disruptors: 3 Steps Hospitals Can Take to Compete and Thrive

By David Harvey, CEO 

Hospitals can’t seem to catch a break. Pandemic-induced challenges, such as exacerbated staffing shortages and revenue losses, are testing them like never before. But hospitals also face escalating threats to market share as industry disruptors gain a further foothold on healthcare in America.

This year alone, CVS doled out $8 billion to acquire Signify Health, and Walmart recently inked a 10-year agreement with the world’s largest health insurer, UnitedHealth Group. Amazon is ramping up the pressure as well, spending nearly $4 billion to purchase One Medical. At the same time, retail clinics are offering easy access and convenience, venture capital and private equity-backed medical groups are using highly tuned care models to personalize the patient journey, and payers-as-providers are focusing on delivering highly integrated, value-based care. 

How can hospitals compete? The answer is simple, but the execution is not: Hospitals must acquire and embrace emerging technologies—and they must do so quickly. Digital health solutions, such as telemedicine, remote patient monitoring, hospital at home, and digital patient intake technologies, are now crucial to their success. Why? Because they can help hospitals retain and attract patients, despite the array of offerings and initiatives being rolled out by competitors. 

For more on how digital health solutions can help hospitals compete with disruptors, see my recent article in Chief Healthcare Executive

The Digital Health Explosion: A Double-Edged Sword

Thanks to the explosion of digital health technologies—there are more than 10,000 on the market today—hospitals have never been more equipped to embrace and innovate in digital health. But while more choices create more opportunities, they also create more challenges. It’s extremely hard for hospitals to navigate all the noise and determine which solutions to acquire. 

In fact, in a recent survey of 100 hospital executives, 95% said it’s challenging to narrow down the list of vendors to consider and most said it takes several months to evaluate and acquire new solutions. In addition, less than 25% said they are very confident that, after selecting a new solution, it’s truly the best positioned to meet their needs.

When time is of the essence, as it is now due to the rising threat to market share, hospitals must find ways to quickly overcome these challenges and accelerate their digital solution acquisition process.  

I recently spoke with Becker’s about the proliferation of digital health solutions—and the challenges it raises. Listen to my interview here. 

Step 1: Assess

A strong strategic plan and digital health roadmap can help hospitals navigate the market and quickly evaluate and acquire solutions. However, just 50% of the hospital executives surveyed said their organization has a digital health strategy, and only 6% said they have a fully developed roadmap and digital health leader. 

Before crafting a plan, hospitals should first form a team that will conduct a digital health audit of their organization. This audit should assess digital health maturity, current technology use, and include a new solution evaluation and acquisition process. 

Other key areas of assessment include: 

  • Tracking the patient journey to pinpoint areas of constrained access and degree of fractured referral channels across clinics and core ambulatory services.
  • Keeping abreast of offerings by new market entrants and competitors that may divert volumes through care models that alleviate consumer access issues.
  • Reviewing current capabilities required to support progressive digital marketing strategy, care navigation and identification of referral transition weak points.
Digital strategy: No time to waste.
A recent SG2 report, “Examining the future of urgent care services,” predicted that E&M volumes at brick-and-mortar facilities will decline as patients turn to digital modalities for healthcare services. The report forecasted that E&M visits will grow 15% over the next 10 years and stated that healthcare organizations must consider a digital strategy to ensure these volumes continue to be captured.

Step 2: Plan

Once the audit is completed, it’s time to create the strategic plan. The insights gained during the audit should provide a foundation for key areas of opportunities and challenges that the plan should address. Here are some critical points to address in the plan: 

  • Digital health solution timeline: Which new digital health solutions need to be replaced, optimized, or acquired? What is the timeline for each of these initiatives? Make sure the plan prioritizes solutions with the highest opportunity to attract new patients and build lifetime loyalty.
  • Leadership and team members: Who will be tasked with ongoing management of the plan once it is finalized? Do you need to hire a digital health leader, and if so, what is the related hiring plan and timeline? What other team members will be supporting this role and initiative? Consider activating a consumerism strategy within the broader plan. Identify a team dedicated to this element of the plan, made up of marketing, operations, and clinical leadership. Also consider: 
    • Tapping external direct-to consumer marketing and physician liaison experts when needed to swiftly advance consumer activation strategies. 
    • Leveraging analytics to inform investment decisions and move toward real-time insights into provider or service availability and pending physician orders to ensure consumer responsiveness.
  • Ongoing engagement and key stakeholder inclusion: Who needs to be involved in approvals, evaluations, contracting, implementations, and ongoing management of new solutions acquired? When do they need to be included? The plan should identify these individuals and institute a recurring meeting cadence to ensure everyone is up-to-date on the latest initiatives and remain fully engaged. 

Step 3: Initiate 

Once the plan is finalized, it’s time to get moving. Partnering with companies like Panda, Sg2, and Vizient can be a huge asset to your organization. We can help guide the strategic planning process, and help you quickly navigate the execution of your plan—including the evaluation, acquisition, and contracting of digital health solutions. We can also help ensure an optimal solution selection, eliminating the possibility of an extremely costly and time-consuming mistake. 

Digital health is making strong inroads and will only continue to accelerate. So too will non-traditional competitors. We’re here to help you successfully navigate both industry changes, by overcoming the challenges posted by industry disruptors—and fully leveraging the opportunities presented by digital health.