Change is constant for the health sector

The overwhelming conclusion from this year’s Barometer on Change - change is the ‘new constant’ - is acutely felt across the health sector.

 

One might argue that it has been ever thus – however, the UK’s health sector has reached a critical point in its evolution where demographic changes, rising public expectations, increasing costs and tightly managed budgets are coinciding to demand a focus on seeking innovative ways in which services can be delivered whilst maintaining or increasing the quality of patient care. The health sector also expects to see the pace of change increasing over forthcoming years – as indicated more widely in this year’s Barometer on Change.

Ongoing cost reduction is driving a refocusing of scarce resources

Following a prolonged period of cost reduction, and with funding growth linked to a strong economic recovery, the focus of leaders across the health system is to identify new ways in which healthcare can be delivered. The Five Year Forward View, published in 2014, clearly recognises the need to explore innovative ways of delivering patient care – and throws off the shackles of traditional care settings. The ‘Vanguards’ initiative seeks to assess the merits of a range of new models of care.

Consolidation, the advent of hospital 'chains' and internal transformation 

Whilst mergers & acquisitions are not typically associated with the health sector, we have seen significant consolidation over recent years – particularly across the commissioner and commissioner support landscapes. A more recent phenomenon is the advent of hospital chains, with the first example being in the North West. As in the private sector, this is a means by which a greater breadth of services can be offered to the population, innovation can be more easily diffused and back office functions can be streamlined.

However, in a sector that has experienced significant and continuous change over the past five years, clearly articulated and understood strategies will be essential to ensure internal transformation can keep up. 

New capabilities, sharing information and social entrepreneurialism 

97% of leaders recognised that their organisations need new or additional skills to deliver their strategies. This is reflected in the health sector as new models of care require a new type of workforce – particularly with the increasing shift of care out of hospitals.

Parallels with the use of big data are clear; leveraging patient data presents great opportunity – but is also contentious. On a macro scale, technology – in particular, wearable technology – is challenging the traditional ownership of patient data, transferring this to the individual, away from the healthcare provider. In the long-term, it will be interesting to see whether this will lead to a healthier population that is less reliant on the health system.

As mentioned above, there is an increasing desire to release the innovative potential of leaders as a means by which ‘answers’ can be found for long-term problems. This form of ‘social entrepreneurialism’ is encouraging, as trying new things requires a greater acceptance of risk and that some of those initiatives may fail.

 

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Author

Richard Jones Partner