Leading healthcare transformation: The power of focusing on margin and mission

Becker's Hospital Review recently caught up with Mike Pederson, head of electrophysiology and heart failure business at Abbott. Mr. Pederson offered insight into the role industry partners can play in helping hospital and health system executives deliver improved patient outcomes while also achieving growth goals in an increasingly competitive and challenging environment.

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Question: In your role, you meet with a lot of health system executives. How can companies like Abbott partner with health systems to help them lead in this challenging healthcare climate?   

Mike Pederson: Industry partners like Abbott work with hospitals and health systems to help them address some of their biggest clinical and operational needs — all aimed at improving patient outcomes and helping to deliver growth. Health system executives tell us that they need to optimize care delivery processes. They want to improve efficiencies in their operations and do a better job of leveraging data and improving information flow, which can help them better manage their population of patients. These are priorities they've identified to help them achieve their larger strategic goals of providing access to quality care, improving the care experience for patients, reducing expenses and overall costs of care, and creating new opportunities to grow.

As a company that provides a range of medical diagnostics systems, devices and nutrition solutions, we work alongside numerous health systems in many areas of the business. And, while an individual health system may be facing a particular challenge for the first time, partners such as Abbott often have experience helping other systems respond to similar types of challenges. Importantly, industry partners can offer insight across different elements of an entire health system, which can help large organizations where improvement initiatives will benefit many different parts of the system.

Q: How can industry partners help them move the needle on these broad systemwide challenges?

MP: As an example, hospitals and health systems that have a specialty in cardiovascular care or heart failure know that helping people manage their conditions and avoid hospitalization is not only better for the patient, but also helps hospitals reduce costs.  We've worked with hospitals to help them implement products like Abbott's CardioMEMS HF System, which allows for remote monitoring of pulmonary artery pressure in patients with heart failure. CardioMEMS has been proven in large-scale clinical trials and real-world analyses to support proactive, collaborative care and reduce healthcare costs because it provides an early warning signal so doctors can treat heart failure patients before their conditions worsen and need to be hospitalized. Abbott also consults with hospitals and health systems on how to improve clinical workflows for heart failure treatment, an area where we have a lot of expertise. Another area is in workflow improvement. Abbott's AlinIQ Clinical Decision Support system, for instance, enables health systems to integrate lab and other clinical data into the process of implementing clinical guidelines, applying evidence-based medicine, and refining best practices for ordering lab tests. This allows executives to demonstrate the total value of ownership for investments in laboratory systems — not just in streamlining clinical workflows but also in improving collaboration across business units.

We have seen and have supported hospital and health system executives working across clinical, financial and operational functions to set priorities and achieve multiple — and often competing — goals. They are collaborating on, planning and pursuing initiatives that have a positive impact on both financial health and patient health. They are advancing solutions that are at the intersection of margin and mission.

Q: What do you mean by "the intersection of margin and mission?"

MP: One approach to achieve financial goals, for instance, is to cut expenses. However, we are working with many hospitals that are thinking in terms of the total value of ownership or investment. They are thinking more broadly beyond the direct and indirect costs, considering other drivers of value and benefits that will be realized tomorrow or some tangible point in the future. As in the examples I noted, companies like Abbott can help by bringing benefits that could include faster turnaround time for lab test results, improved clinical workflows for cardiac care, and more actionable insight from available data sets — all of which enhance the delivery and quality of care. This is what I mean by leading at the intersection of margin and mission.

A total value of ownership analysis helps health systems look beyond upfront costs and better understand the long-term benefits of an investment in technology, capital, staff or process improvement, which helps health systems improve financial health and, most importantly, patient health instead of choosing one priority or the other.

Q: In addition to helping health systems improve care delivery and workflow, how can industry partners enable health systems to drive growth?

MP: The solutions, services and expertise of industry partners like Abbott can be applied to a number of initiatives aimed at driving growth. Diagnostic tools and medical devices can enable health systems to establish a market-leading Center of Excellence in an area such as cardiovascular care, diabetes care or pain management. Improving clinical lab efficiency and optimizing the clinical lab network lets clinical staff get answers to patients and their physicians faster, and this can boost patient satisfaction, which in turn can help attract and retain patients. It follows that improvements and efficiencies in process increases throughput, which enables health systems to treat more patients without expanding their physical footprint.

As health systems set priorities and respond to challenges ahead, industry partners can offer them a breadth of experience and expertise that can help them achieve their highest mission of improving patient care and outcomes — and grow.

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