There has been plenty of talk about the changes overtaking health care, but not a lot has been offered in the way of concrete steps to get a hospital or health system ready for that change.

A report geared toward health care strategists identifies some fundamental problems with the traditional hospital organizational approach that left as is will impede the hospital field's ability to succeed in the new world.

The report, called "Bridging Worlds: The Future Role of the Healthcare Strategist," also offers some basic strategies for changing a culture that is not acting fast enough to survive amid all the change that's taking place.

"Historically, hospitals and health systems have been anything but nimble; layers of decision-making and a legacy of inertia can make decision-making slow and methodical," according to the authors of the report, which was produced by the Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development, part of the American Hospital Association.

Those themes were underscored at a webinar yesterday hosted by the AHA-affiliated Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence, in which tough strategic issues were addressed.

Underlying the report's themes is the idea that hospitals' typical approach of developing comprehensive plans of action that ensure every contingency is covered won't work moving forward. They must "begin evolving away from these standing committees and multiple bureaucratic planning processes — which we all know to be paralyzing — to create agile teams," said co-presenter Jeffrey Kraut, senior vice president of strategy and business informatics for North Shore-LIJ Health System.

Doing that means that strategists for hospitals must be moving faster than the market is changing, which in the process gives them the ammo to transform the essence of how a hospital operates.

The following table describes what the authors believe hospitals' present focus is compared with what it should be.

Present Focus

Future Focus

Fixed responsibilities

Open to new challenges

Traditional business model

Startup model

Fully vetted business plans

Minimum viable product; just enough funding

Thinking like an employee

Acting like an owner



Mitigate risk

Willingness to test

Fully realized, fixed products

Quick-to-market offerings

Top down

Outside in

Comprehensive planning process

Just enough planning process

Pilot projects

Fast-track implementation; pivot on the fly

Bulletproof concepts

Hypothesis testing

Systemwide strategy

Microstrategy connected to vision

Standing committees

Nimble teams

Specific tips to get started with new ways of tackling business issues are included, such as solving a problem by looking at how a non-health care organization or brand might tackle it.

The report offers other tips on how to handle the growing power of the patient as a consumer, ways to take advantage of Big Data and how to get a hospital's different moving parts working together to generate new ideas.

You can comment below or directly to me via email, Twitter, and Google+.