Jonathan Bush: Healthcare needs anchoring framework to serve as its compass

Who doesn't want to make more money? Those on the forefront of health IT have an unparalleled opportunity to do well by doing good. It's the opportunity to introduce the latest innovations that fix the ever-persistent, budget-draining, patient-endangering inefficiencies in healthcare, while capturing new markets and making a ton of money for themselves – and their provider clients. Surely, a win-win.

However, the stark truth is that provider organizations – no matter the size – are struggling with the very real costs of simply being average. Caught between ineffective legacy software and a hard place, health systems are losing about $50,000 per physician in revenue, per year due to mediocre performance. For OB/GYN and surgery, the figure is closer to $83,000.

In the face of roiling mediocrity, uncertainty and inconsistency, the healthcare industry needs (and deserves) an anchoring framework that will serve as a compass, enabling leadership to prioritize the right investments, link stakeholders in a "reinforcing cycle of engagement" and drive the performance that makes organizations – and their patients healthier. Limited resources can be focused. Top performers emulated.

That said, defining how to achieve high-performing status is challenging because the stakes in healthcare are so high. Unlike most industries, providers have to perform well against two critical (but seemingly unrelated) outcomes: How to provide high-quality care to patients, and still collect enough revenue to ensure ongoing sustainability and reward those delivering the care. In partnership with Harvard Business School's Len Schlesinger, the god of service-profit chain theory, athenahealth is reconfiguring tried-and-true success models of consumerism for healthcare.

In simple terms, the service-profit chain theory posits that profitability and growth of a company are driven by customer loyalty and satisfaction. And in turn, customer engagement hinges on employee loyalty and satisfaction, which all operates in a cycle that feeds on one another. When applied to healthcare, Schlesinger and team discovered top organizations possess common attributes critical to organizations' ability to implement best practices, including a galvanizing vision for the organization, radical data transparency, empowerment of support staff to carry greater responsibility, and a focus on a holistic patient experience.

One step further, what if healthcare organizations could cull knowledge from the country's largest health network, pulling insights from clinical and financial activity from tens of thousands of providers across the country, honing in on the high-performers, and extracting their secrets of success – the real, concrete, "must do" drivers of performance?

The result is what we call the High-Performing Provider Network, or HPPN.The model is a management playbook of best-in-breed practices based on data from 39,000 physicians across the U.S. and identifies business and quality indicators and company attributes that are consistently associated with better outcomes. Push patients to sign up for the portal. Increase time-of-service collections. Connect your organization to the healthcare continuum. Get patients to come back and keep physicians happy. Do this and your health system jumps to the next quintile of financial and clinical success. 

There is arguably no capability more important for healthcare executives than equipping providers to perform at the best of their abilities with the right information, workflows, resource orchestration, and tools – and then, holding them accountable to performance standards. HPPN represents an ongoing commitment to that goal, and it's my belief a vendor with a vast healthcare network provides not only visibility into what differentiates the average from the excellent, but can help any organization take those next steps towards high-performance. 

HPPNs have effective leaders and employ engaged and capable staffs who in turn deliver care and services that inspire loyal patients, driving results for their entire organizations, and so on. This is the reinforcing cycle of engagement in action. So, what's your health IT vendor's plan to get you to the top?

HIMSS17 runs from Feb. 19-23, 2017 at the Orange County Convention Center.