Serving Multiple Wants and Needs

To remain relevant in the Internet economy, hospitals must rethink their value proposition. The new value proposition will need to meld the traditional attributes of community relationship and quality with attributes that meet the new consumer-focused demands of the Internet economy. The new value proposition needs to provide what people want, rather than solely what is good for them. It also needs to distinguish hospitals from the nontraditional competitors that are pouring into the market.

Rethinking the value proposition begins by looking at health care from the multiple perspectives of the people a hospital serves.

People who are acutely ill or injured want to be in the hands of capable and caring providers. For this segment of the community, the traditional hospital role will continue to have compelling value. However, for the segments of the community that have different wants and needs — and those segments are getting larger and larger — hospitals will have to demonstrate a different value:

·      People who are generally well but require a specific service — for example, a prescription refill — want an efficient transaction.

·      People who have a discomfort that stops short of an emergency want convenient access to a caregiver for quick diagnosis and treatment.

·      People who have chronic conditions that require ongoing management and that put them at risk of hospitalization or emergency department visits may need assistance with living conditions, transportation or nutrition — services that may previously have been called “public health.”

·      People who are healthy and want to stay that way want resources to help them learn, practice, track and reward healthy behaviors.

And the entire community needs care that is coordinated among multiple settings and providers and is far easier to navigate than what they have now.

A New Value Proposition for Hospitals

For most hospitals, the traditional operating vision focuses on caring for people — ensuring that patients are accurately diagnosed and effectively treated. For organizations with a strong culture, that operating vision informs the perspectives and actions of staff. So, when a patient shows up with an illness or injury, an organization whose operating vision is caring will devote itself to treating the condition, but it may stop short of fully understanding the underlying social or behavioral causes of the condition. It also likely will stop short of providing the kind of support that could address those causes and, thereby, avoid the condition.

A focus on caring is important, but it is inherently narrow. The new hospital value proposition requires a much broader perspective. This value proposition needs to expand from caring to helping.

The value proposition of helping will take different forms to meet the needs of different population segments. For certain segments, helping will mean identifying factors that put people at risk for poor health or hospitalization and helping people address those factors, from medication management to family issues. For other segments, helpingmay mean providing expanded care options — home visits, nurse practitioner visits, group visits, virtual visits, health coaching. And for other segments, it may mean assistance in navigating the health care system and community resources. Helping may take place in a hospital, clinic, home, school or community center, or it may take place on the phone or online.

As the core of a hospital’s operating vision, helping should become part of the culture, perspective and behaviors that permeate the organization. Every facet of planning, every operational decision and every infrastructure consideration should seek to improve the hospital’s ability to help people stay healthy. Every patient encounter and every interaction in the community should put those capabilities into action.

Health is the most valuable part of people’s lives. Health care is the most personal service. People want convenience, access and ease of use. But, people also want the confidence and comfort that one organization will be by their side for the long term, helping them as their health statuses and health needs change.

Like any compelling value proposition, this one will be difficult to achieve. It also will be difficult for any nontraditional competitor to match. Most importantly, it will meet the deepest needs of the people hospitals serve. In today’s environment, helping is the value proposition that America’s hospitals need to embrace and deliver.

Kenneth Kaufman is chair of Kaufman, Hall & Associates LLC, in Skokie, Ill., and a member of Speakers Express.