Viewpoint: Health systems need a 'Ford strategy'

It is time for health systems to reconsider their strategy. Cars might offer some clarity, according to Kenneth Kaufman, managing director and chair of KaufmanHall. 

In an article for KaufmanHall, Mr. Kaufman recounted Ford's bold decision to stop making all U.S. internal combustion sedans except the Mustang. For nearly 100 years, Ford's Model T automobiles were top sellers; but by 2018, new capabilities were changing the market, and the manufacturer faced an important pivot point. 

"We're going to feed the healthy parts of our business and deal decisively with the areas that destroy value," said Jim Hackett, Ford's then-CEO. 

The company reorganized and shifted its focus to electric vehicles, leading with the popular F-150. It kept the best parts of its existing strategy to pave the path forward — and health systems must do the same, according to Mr. Kaufman. 

"All organizations, including America's hospitals and health systems, need to confront the fact that no strategic plan lasts forever," he wrote. 

"The questions asked and answered by Ford in the past five years are highly relevant to health system strategic planning at a time of changing demand, economic and clinical uncertainty, and rapid innovation," Mr. Kaufman continued. "For example, as you view your organization in its entirety, what must be preserved from the existing structure and operations, and what operations, costs, and strategies must leave? And which competencies and capabilities must be woven into a going-forward structure?" 

For example, patients' priorities are changing, Mr. Kaufman says. Referral channels, which were effective during the past three decades, may lose power as the internet allows patients to tailor care experiences to their own preferences. 

"America's hospitals and health systems have an extremely long history — in some cases, longer than Ford's," Mr. Kaufman wrote. "With that history comes a natural tendency to stick with deeply entrenched strategies. Now is the time for health systems to ask themselves, what is our Ford F150? And how do we 'electrify' our strategic plan going forward?"

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