The Future of
Healthcare Leadership:

Creating the Consumer-Centric Organization

For years, healthcare leaders have made small shifts toward a more consumer-centric care delivery model, but today, these moderate moves are no longer enough. In a period of unprecedented industry disruption and innovation, significant strategic change must be made to remain relevant and provide the high-quality care patients expect. The future of healthcare leadership is all about creating consumer-centric organizations, and forward thinkers are focusing on three primary areas to transform their organizations today and into the future - transparency of price and quality data, technology that engages patients and personalized care delivery.


Delivering Value
Through Disruption

While the notion of consumerism in healthcare has been around for several years, healthcare organizations are just now beginning to grapple with the reality of responding to this disruptive force that's upending traditional methods of care delivery.

Today, most healthcare organizations are not set up to deliver care the way consumers want to receive it. Consumers expect increased transparency into cost and quality, technology that improves access and convenience, and personalization that makes them feel like more than just a number. To deliver on all these demands, the healthcare industry must make significant investments in innovating current processes to provide personalized, high-touch, transparent and technologically advanced care.

Much has been said in the media regarding the rise of healthcare "consumerism," however in a recent survey* conducted by Huron, executives largely don't view consumers' changing preferences as impetus for action. In the same survey, executives noted that consumers' evolving behaviors (particularly around digital experiences and demand for convenience), are driving organizations' focus on technology.

Current State Traditional Healthcare Delivery
Future State Consumer-Centric Healthcare Delivery
Single focus on hospital-centered care
Supplement with alternative care models
Improve current processes and focus on quality metrics
Improve processes while innovating for the future
Focus on acute care episodes
Focus on preventive care
Built around large hospitals
Wide-ranging health systems
Provide multiple offerings, with varying degrees of excellence
Specialize in a few offerings or services, and deliver exceptional care
No processes built in to help patients navigate their financial responsibilities
Transparently publicize prices and help patients plan for the future
Use manual methods (aka paper) to schedule, chart and deliver patient care
Utilize technology to provide a personalized, efficient patient experience
Depend on patients to navigate healthcare systems without guidance
Proactively address patients' needs and help them navigate the continuum of care

In the past, healthcare transformation has focused primarily on government regulations like HCAHPS or patient experience. While exceptional service is important, today's challenging healthcare landscape requires more. To remain competitive, organizations must not only commit to transforming their traditional methods of care delivery but must also pledge to provide a distinctly different, more consumer-focused experience.

"Patients want the ability to easily and independently access their own medical records, schedule an appointment, review their orders and correspond with providers," says Studer Group Senior Leader and Huron Managing Director Craig Deao. "It's not necessarily about avoiding human interaction, but about streamlining parts of the process to make it more convenient for consumers."

What Do Today's Healthcare Consumers Want?

Easy access to their
healthcare data

Appointments when, where and how they want them

Regular communication
with providers

Lower costs,
published online

Increased transparency into quality metrics

Ability to choose their
own providers

Technology that supports
their health goals

Personalized care focused
on the individual

Of course, all those patient experience improvements healthcare providers have been working on for years are important, and leaders should continue to do them. But without an underlying consumerism strategy that considers what patients want and anticipates future needs, those initiatives fall flat.

Considerations for Developing a Consumer-Centric Strategy

When developing a consumer-focused strategy, there are five primary prerequisites for healthcare executives, according to Huron managing director Hazel Seabrook:

  • An engaged medical staff who are willing to be transparent and embrace the change this will mean
  • Technology to support the notion of consumerism (i.e. interactive platforms, apps that interface with medical records and physician offices, linkages to care coaches and integrated devices that transmit patient health data to providers)
  • Use of collected data to manage chronic disease in the most effective and efficient way, keeping patients at home, which is where they want to be
  • Consumer input on what they need and want from their healthcare provider
  • Knowledge of leading consumer-centric practices from industries outside of healthcare

If healthcare's mission is to produce healthy communities, success cannot be defined by traditional metrics like volume or patient stays. It must be measured by an ability to keep patients out of healthcare facilities in the first place.

"While the idea of patients as consumers is unpalatable to some in healthcare, remember that they are only patients when healthcare institutions fail to keep them healthy," Huron managing director Matthew Bates says.

For example, childhood asthma is one of the most common reasons for an emergency department (ED) visit today. In the past, when ED volume spiked because preventive measures failed, that was considered success. But forward-thinking healthcare leaders are providing customized, consumer-focused preventive care that reduces the number of acute care episodes, Bates emphasizes.

Most experts agree that healthcare can impact all the modifiable determinants of health - at least 70 percent of the factors that contribute to premature death. That is done by understanding what consumers want and providing care that takes those preferences into account. Healthcare organizations that do so will float to the top of the list when consumers choose where, when and whether to seek out care.

Patient as Quarterback

Craig Deao, a healthcare leadership and engagement expert, describes an exercise in which he participated with executive leadership at a small community health center. They were asked to split into four groups and draw a football field. Then, they sketched the primary healthcare stakeholders and labeled them as traditional football players.

As each group unveiled their drawings, Craig noticed a gap in their depictions of the patient. One group labeled the patient as "spectator," another as "referee," and yet another as "the ball." Only one group considered the patient the "quarterback."

"This was one of the most patient-centered organizations I've worked with, yet the exercise showed a remarkable difference in how they viewed their patients," Deao says. "Viewing them as spectators reflects a very different perspective than viewing them as a quarterback."

Pioneering Change in Healthcare

Consumerism in any industry tends to spur innovation that results in improved quality and reduced costs.  Healthcare largely has been immune to these forces until recently, and as a result, there have been significant cost increases and, in many cases, a dearth of choices. To survive in this era of disruption, healthcare organizations must fundamentally transform, and not just by changing what they are currently doing. To remain competitive, healthcare leaders must also do entirely different things to meet customer demand.

“The healthcare industry must be responsive to this wave of consumer expectations and demands for different care, delivered when they want it, how they want it and at the price they want it.”

- Craig Deao, MHA

"The healthcare industry must be responsive to this wave of consumer expectations and demands for different care, delivered when they want it, how they want it and at the price they want it," Deao says. "We have to deliver healthcare in a way that's part of an ecosystem, not just as monolithic organizations doing episodic care, but as systems that actually support wellness for individuals."

Value in Healthcare: A Shifting Perspective

What it comes down to is this: healthcare consumers are seeking value.  But that term means different things to different healthcare stakeholders. In the past, it has been defined by caregivers because they have the information and expertise to distinguish good care from bad. With an increase in the amount of information available to consumers, that is shifting.

As healthcare organizations innovate to execute on a consumer-centric strategy and provide higher quality care at a lower cost, the definition of value will largely be determined by consumers. According to Deao, the onus is on healthcare organizations to understand who their consumers are, what they want and how to provide a product they will find valuable.


Long ago, doctors made house calls to treat patients, but as healthcare modernized, hospitals and health systems provided one-size-fits-all healthcare services and asked patients to conform. Today, patients expect more from the places and people that provide their care.

Looking into the future, organizations that meet patients where they are will be rewarded with increased volume and market share. In the age of consumerism, if health systems aren't providing exceptional care to every patient, every time, patients will seek care elsewhere. And from retail clinics to concierge services, the options are increasing.

Leadership Tips

What can leaders do to ensure they are delivering quality care to every patient every time?

  • Work to understand what consumers need and want, not just what your organization is currently set up to deliver.
  • Commit to transforming traditional methods of care delivery and pledge to provide a distinctly different, more consumer-focused experience. Be agile and willing to innovate.
  • If your hospital was a football game, ask yourself the role your patients are playing. If they're not the quarterback, reconsider your consumer-facing strategy.

Transparency that
Empowers Consumer Choice

As consumers become savvier about their own healthcare, there is increasing demand for transparency into the value of the care they are receiving. If value is quality divided by cost, to fully understand the value of healthcare, consumers must have transparent access to data about both factors.

Up to now, the level of price transparency has varied, and the complexity of charges has deterred organizations from listing prices despite consumer pressure. Likewise, with little standardization, regular reporting of quality data is still not a reality in the industry. With the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' (CMS) impending Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) rule set to take effect in January 2019, organizations are now beginning to embrace price and quality data transparency in a real way. 

Helping Patients Understand Healthcare Costs

Consumers want to know what they are getting for their money and expect healthcare organizations to provide a crosswalk of their services to their prices. Additionally, under CMS's recent ruling, hospitals will be required to transparently report standard charges online and update the information annually.

While that is a heavy lift for healthcare organizations, studies have shown that given a choice between a provider that transparently publishes their prices and one that doesn't, consumers typically gravitate toward the first organization. It's not necessarily about the lowest cost, but about understanding their financial obligation up front. Patients are also more likely to pay their bills if providers proactively help them understand what they will owe.  However, one 2017 study found that only 22 percent of healthcare organizations listed prices on their website. 

In 2017, only 22% of healthcare organizations listed prices on their website.

One of the primary drivers of the push for price transparency is increased financial responsibility on the part of consumers. As healthcare costs rise, in the form of higher deductibles and co-pays, consumers shop around out of necessity. If they are going to spend their own money on a service, it becomes more important to find the option that provides the most value.

The problem is that there is a lack of standardized pricing in healthcare. What it costs to get an MRI at one hospital is likely not the same at another. According to Modern Healthcare, these differences in price for the same service can be in the thousands of dollars even between hospitals in the same neighborhood.  A Washington Post analysis suggests that, even on the same street, costs for services can vary as much as 300 percent. And between hospitals and freestanding facilities, the differences can be even greater. 

Beyond that, what a hospital pays to provide an MRI is not the same as what an insured patient will end up paying. Thus, coordinating with various insurers to determine the patient's portion is yet another barrier to providing an accurate breakdown of costs.

An additional barrier comes from the fact that many organizations struggle to comprehend and articulate the true cost of any particular inpatient stay. They lack the cost accounting systems and the standardization necessary to truly be transparent.

Further, providing cost estimates to patients up front is a source of fear for many healthcare organizations because it's always possible that there could be a mistake.  If the estimate is too high, patients might choose to go elsewhere, but if it's too low, healthcare organizations run the risk of upsetting patients when it comes time to pay the bill. Weaving financial counseling and education into patient care could help patients better understand their responsibility so that they are prepared to pay their bills after treatment - a financial win for healthcare organizations.

Reporting and Standardizing Quality Metrics

Upfront pricing is a great first step in transparency for consumers, but it doesn't paint the entire picture. In addition to cost, it is equally important that healthcare organizations continue to work toward transparency of quality and performance metrics. It's impossible to determine value based on cost alone; quality is also a critical factor.

CMS measures seven outcome factors to calculate quality - mortality, readmissions, safety of care, patient experience, effectiveness of care, timeliness of care and efficient use of medical imaging.  The good news is that, unlike price, quality metrics are mostly standard. Some quality data, like HCAHPS scores, hospital-acquired infection rates and readmissions penalties are already publicly reported. But this data can be difficult for the average patient to understand.

Greater Consumer Choice

Quality data is written by healthcare experts and can be extremely difficult for the average patient to understand and absorb. Holy Family Memorial has a team dedicated to helping patients understand quality data. The organization's Consumer Transparency Theme Team helps patients understand what to expect before, during and after their visits. 

But there are barriers to reporting quality metrics for healthcare organizations.  For one, there are few standards around the practice, according to an article by the National Academy of Medicine. The authors suggest that creating standards could stimulate improvements in the quality of data presented, as well. The IPPS rule could begin to turn that tide. Beginning January 2019, acute care hospitals that report quality data and meaningfully use electronic health records (EHRs) will receive a 1.85 percent increase in Medicare operating rates. 

Leadership Tips

In the face of impending regulations, healthcare leaders must move quickly to make pricing and quality data more transparent. Not sure where to start? Try these tips.

  • Think like a consumer and present information in ways that are easy to understand, even for those outside of the healthcare industry.
  • Set up the infrastructure to help patients make smart financial decisions up front.
  • Don't wait for federal regulations to begin strategizing for increased transparency into price and quality metrics. Start working to make the information available now.

Technology that Engages
Consumers and Providers

Technology in healthcare is growing fast and furious. For healthcare providers, it's innovating processes and improving their ability to provide exceptional patient care. For consumers, it's handing them more power to access their information, make appointments, research cost and quality, correspond with their providers, understand their diagnoses and monitor their health. In the future of healthcare, technology will be vital to respond to consumer demand.13

For healthcare leaders, technology can either support or impede progress toward a more consumer-centric strategy. From the beginning, leaders must set their teams up for success with any new technologies by giving them the right infrastructure and training to sustain long-term benefit through continued education, validation and support.

Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and Patient-Controlled Data

Electronic Health Records (EHRs) have been both a boon and a barrier for healthcare providers. Recently, however, the conversation has evolved to include discussions about the role patients play in the utilization and management of their own data. The purpose of the MyHealthEData initiative, mandated by the federal government in early 2018, is to give patients more control over their health information. The initiative not only ensures that patients can access their own data but also that they can easily share it with providers whenever and wherever they want. 

To respond, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are adjusting their EHR incentive programs to focus on interoperability and health information access. With these updates, CMS Administrator Seema Verma says the organization will also require providers to share data and give patients access to their own information after discharge. They will also seek to streamline documentation so that providers are not burdened by administrative tasks and can spend more time with patients. And finally, CMS will work toward reducing "unnecessary and duplicative" testing that can happen when providers are not aware of what has been previously ordered.

Giving patients access to their own health records can lead to a 60% increase in medication compliance and makes them 75% more likely to recall their care plan.

In May 2018, the United States Government Accountability Office released a report that highlighted the costly and inconvenient lengths to which some patients must go in order to access information about their own health and medical treatment, citing two specific instances in which patients were charged more than $500 to get their medical records. With the focus on improving access to health information, companies like Apple are moving to enter this space to make and market the technology that will enable this shift. 

Meanwhile, the benefits of allowing patients access to their healthcare data are clear. In fact, research suggests that reviewing their doctors' notes after a visit can improve patients' ability to recall their care plans by 75 percent. Likewise, patients' medication compliance can increase by 60 percent. 

By 2023, accessible data will go from being a novelty to an expectation. To stay ahead, healthcare leaders should lean in and set up shop now to prepare to rapidly respond to this trend.

Telehealth for Increasingly Mobile Consumers

This focus on access and convenience is not exclusive to health data. More and more, patients are looking to alternative venues to receive care, whether that be retail clinics, urgent care centers, concierge medicine or telehealth. Competitive organizations must begin to think outside of the hospital to meet consumer demand. In fact, 20 percent of consumers say they would switch to a provider that offered telemedicine visits. 


of consumers say they would switch to a provider that offered telemedicine visits

In 2016, online telehealth companies like TeleDoc, American Well and Doctor on Demand conducted 1.2 million virtual doctor visits. Telehealth, although an investment up front, can help providers deliver care where and when consumers want it, increasing access and lowering costs at the same time. Whereas traditional doctor visits can cost upwards of $100, telehealth visits typically cost about $45. By the end of 2018, it is estimated that 76 percent of hospitals will have a telehealth program and 69 percent of organizations with an existing program will expand it.  Telehealth helps organizations:

  • Manage the health of their communities
  • Reach underserved populations
  • Provide convenient, easy to access healthcare services
  • Improve access for consumers

Not only does telehealth decrease costs, it also improves patient outcomes. In a telehealth pilot program conducted with 100 diabetes patients by the University of Mississippi Medical Center's Diabetes Telehealth Network, 96 percent of participants took their medications as directed and 83 percent of them kept their scheduled telehealth appointments. Additionally, the organization saw a savings of $339,000. If healthcare's end-goal is higher-quality care driven by patient engagement, telehealth is one way to get closer to achieving that.

Healthcare leaders without a telehealth program should ask themselves not whether telehealth is needed but how to create the infrastructure to support such technology in their organizations.

In a pilot program by the University of Mississippi Medical Center's Diabetes Telehealth Network: 


of participants
took their medication
as directed


of participants
kept scheduled
telehealth appointments

Total Savings: $339,000

Patient-Generated Health Data Fills in the Gaps

Most contemporary industries have had to adapt to an increasingly mobile consumer, and healthcare is no exception. Today's consumers expect to be able to use their phones to do almost anything - lock their front doors, connect with family and friends and even monitor their own health. Just as telehealth increases consumer convenience and EHRs are shifting to put the power in the hands of the patient, health apps and wearables allow consumers more control over their own healthcare.

62% of patients say they would choose a provider who uses their wearable device data over one who does not21

For example, Senosis has developed an app that measures lung function hemoglobin counts and detects jaundice, and iSono Health has a portable device that enables patients to conduct their own breast exam. Apps like these make it easy for patients to manage their own care and have the potential to change the patient-provider dynamic by placing more power in consumers' hands. 

The healthcare industry is in a lull right now as it relates to use of these tools, but by 2021, there will be another surge of activity around them as providers figure out how to better incorporate the data into clinical decision-making, Bates predicts. In 2016, there were more than 250,000 mobile health apps available, and the wearables market is expected to expand from 310 million devices in 2017 to more than 500 million by 2021. 

What is patient-generated health data (PGHD)?

Health-related data created, recorded or gathered by or from patients (or caregivers) to help address a health concern24

These types of technologies enable doctors to access real-time patient health data, thus allowing for more customized and timely treatment.

Not only that, patient-generated health data (PGHD) can reduce the amount of time physicians must dedicate to collecting data during office visits, allowing them to spend more time with patients, improving both physician and patient engagement. It can also empower patients to better understand their own health, partner with providers on treatment and more readily comply with their health plan. 

It is important that providers utilize and manage the data that is generated by these devices or this simply becomes another data silo, where information goes to die. For healthcare leaders, placing a premium on data - all data - can help to ensure that PGHD makes its way into patients' comprehensive health records.

The role of healthcare leaders in technology adoption is to help consumers and care teams manage the change that comes in tandem with these advances. Creating organizational infrastructures and education to support such technology is key.

Leadership Tips

Take charge of your organization's technology strategy with these four tips.

  • Empower patients by giving them access to the information they need to be informed decision-makers in their own healthcare plans.
  • Make investments now in technology that supports and engages both patients and providers.
  • Consider how patient-generated health data (PGHD) can be used to aid in clinical decision-making and work to incorporate it into patients' comprehensive health plans.
  • Train physicians and employees to use new technology effectively at times that are convenient for them. Some leaders opt to provide training on weekends, before and after clinic hours or on lunch breaks to limit interruptions to patient care.

Personalized Care that
Improves Consumer Experience

Consumers today are looking for personalized care that is organized around the individual and is delivered in a customized way that considers each patient's health concerns and goals. This is where the data from EHRs, health apps and wearables come in.

Patients who are motivated to improve their health are willing to share pertinent health information with providers, who can then use it to create a personalized plan for them. Mark Bertolini, chief executive officer of Aetna, calls this the "next best action." For example, for a 44-year-old diabetes patient, it might be getting their A1C checked more often or walking 10,000 steps a day.

Right Care, Right Time, Right Place

At the core of personalization is also the concept of "right care, right time, right place", which speaks to the critical thinking required by providers to ensure patients are getting appropriate care warranted by the situation and tailored to their specific needs. To personalize care, providers should consider each patient individually and help them to progress through their healthcare experience at the right pace, receiving the right treatment from the right provider, says Hazel Seabrook.

The first goal of healthcare should be preventive care. Increasingly, this is also what consumers are looking for in health delivery. Don't just treat me when I'm sick; help me stay well. Recent moves toward population health and accountable care hint at this shift in thinking. Personalized, coordinated care helps keep people healthier.

In a recent study published in Population Health Management, more than 10,000 participants received individualized care that included behavior modification and disease compliance. These participants reduced their utilization of emergency room and urgent care services and the total amount they spent on their healthcare over three years. 

Care Coordination for Improved Outcomes

Today, care coordination in most healthcare organizations centers on patient care that advances them through their hospitalization to a safe discharge. The goal of care coordination includes a comprehensive, system-wide interpretation that starts in the primary care physician office and follows a patient through their hospital stay, to any post-acute care they may need and back to their primary care provider. In the future, care coordination will shift to be a much more cyclical process that helps patients navigate through all the phases of their healthcare experience, improving patient perception of their care and their long-term health outcomes, Seabrook says.


of healthcare professionals say care
delivered by their organizations
is "fully coordinated"


of healthcare professionals surveyed say
that real-time communication was the
biggest hurdle to care coordination 

These advancements can be the difference between a hospital that survives the current state of disruption and one that doesn't. One study suggests that about one-third of patients have a medical discrepancy when they leave the hospital, and about 20 percent of discharged patients will experience an adverse event within three weeks of discharge. 

Those 20 percent of patients who have an adverse experience after discharge and may need additional post-acute care negatively impact the healthcare industry's bottom line at a whopping total of more than $100 billion annually. Additionally, readmissions cost $30-40 billion every year.

Benefits of Care Coordination
  • Increased communication between care teams
  • Higher employee and physician engagement
  • HCAHPS improvements, particularly in the care transitions domain
  • Improved patient and family engagement
  • Reduction in length of stay and readmissions
  • Improved financial health for organizations

“By addressing these concerns and shortening their length of stay by around one day through improved coordination, two organizations we work with increased their annual revenue by $19 and $26 million dollars, while simultaneously reducing mortality and improving quality metrics.”

- Hazel Seabrook

According to Seabrook, the benefits of care coordination are many, and it is imperative that forward-thinking leaders help their organizations master this competency.

"By addressing these concerns and shortening their length of stay by around one day through improved coordination, two organizations we work with increased their annual revenue by $19 and $26 million dollars, while simultaneously reducing mortality and improving quality metrics," says Seabrook.

Interoperability plays a major role in the future of care coordination, as well.  Until healthcare organizations have systems that speak to each other and support collaboration between providers, they will never have truly coordinated care. Larger systems that have the resources are already making shifts to ensure that their teams have what they need. But in smaller systems or standalones, it is often difficult to find the funds to invest in integrated systems. This investment now, however, will be the key to getting ahead of the trend toward better coordinated, consumer-centric care in the future.

Leadership Tips

What can forward-thinking healthcare leaders do today to begin improving care coordination?

  • Start at the top. Make sure your senior leaders are engaged and pushing the effort to coordinate care. CMOs and CNOs are critical stakeholders in this as the ones who really drive the change with their frontline teams.
  • Engage your physicians. They are often the most difficult group to get on board, but once they are on board, it's dynamic.
  • Evaluate where you are today. What do you already have in place to support care coordination? What else do you need to prioritize it across the continuum?
  • Implement and hardwire interdisciplinary rounds. These should occur every day on every unit and cover what needs to be done to advance patient care while identifying any barriers to safe discharges.
  • Hold people accountable for achieving the goals of care coordination - improved HCAHPS scores, reduced length of stay and readmissions, and increased employee and provider engagement.
  • Create seamless transitions of care by ensuring that patients receive post-discharge calls to check on their status, supplies, medication and food availability.
  • Ensure you have at least one senior leader with 360-degree visibility across the entire organization, from pre-acute through post-acute treatment, to identify and address any barriers to coordinated care.

Executing on a
Consumer-Centric Strategy

Understanding the importance of these consumerism trends and hardwiring them into an organization are two different things. Intentional, unwavering strategic execution is key to ensure these initiatives deliver their potential positive impacts.

For organizations to reduce risk and lead through disruption, they must have a blueprint for creating and sustaining change. Studer Group's Driving Performance Model is one example. It begins with a planning phase, followed by an implementation phase, then a phase to hardwire processes, and finally a phase focused on sustaining the change. This model is most effective when it is not a linear, one-and-done progression, but rather a continuous cycle that drives alignment, accountability and reliable execution throughout the organization.

Return to diagnose when implementing a new behavior or taking current improvements to the next level Diagnose Plan Phase Treat organize Hardwire Phase validate reward coach Implement Phase teach monitor Ongoing Assessment of Hardwired Behaviors Sustain Phase

Applying Design Thinking to Healthcare

If responding effectively to consumerism is part of a healthcare organization's strategy, design thinking should be leveraged. Because design thinking is founded on empathetic consideration of the needs of the end user, these solutions, by definition, are focused on what consumers want versus what healthcare organizations need to offer.

What is design thinking?

A problem-solving methodology that keeps the consumer in mind while empowering employees to play an active role in finding solutions to solve complicated problems; emphasizes collaborative innovation, rapid prototyping and constant refinement of ideas30

There are any number of problems in healthcare that could benefit from applying design-thinking, including no-shows, communication issues, social determinants, and of course, consumerism. At the Health Transformation Building at Dell Medical School in Austin, Texas, this principle has been applied to the waiting room. Rather than sit in a cold, sterile waiting area, patients who arrive early are encouraged to spend their time between arrival and appointment in an atrium, cafĂ© or library with an outdoor deck. When possible, patients can also go directly back to exam rooms. 

There's potential for design thinking to revolutionize the patient experience in the face of growing concerns over consumerism. The problem is that most organizations are not taking full advantage of this methodology to find solutions to their most challenging problems. In fact, according to a NEJM Catalyst study, about two-thirds of respondents say their organizations use design thinking occasionally, seldom or never. To move forward in a consumer-centric industry, that must change. 

Other organizations are also jumping on this trend.

  • Kaiser Permanente recently remodeled patient rooms at their San Diego Medical Center to include more insulation to keep the noise level down, personal temperature controls for each room and circadian rhythm lighting that mimics natural sunlight.
  • Humber River Hospital, North America's first fully digital hospital, has integrated bedside terminals that empower patients to access their health record whenever they'd like and control their own lights, temperature and window coverings, allowing each patient to personalize their experience.

In a survey conducted
by NEJM Catalyst,
respondents were asked:
"How often does your
organization actively employ
of design thinking?"


Including all stakeholders in decision-making, problem-solving and execution, in the end, helps facilitate buy-in for the long-term.

"No one fights their own ideas," Deao says.

When leaders, frontline staff, and even patients and community members get involved, they become more engaged in the process and invested in the outcome. And when stakeholders are engaged in finding solutions to deliver truly consumer-centric care, that's when the magic truly happens.

Leadership through Disruption

As leaders contend with the sheer volume of change in the industry today, the output of healthcare organizations' strategies is going to be mostly unknowns.

"There's no predicting when healthcare organizations are going to be required to execute on some of these new consumer-centric initiatives, and leaders are still going to have to continue to move forward anyway," Deao says.

That's the nature of leadership and great patient care. Good strategy, coupled with the fortitude it takes to make bold bets to position healthcare organizations for the future, even under uncertain circumstances, is critical.

"This combination of measured planning and innovative vision will predict the winners in the future," Deao suggests.

The disruption in healthcare today requires leaders to be willing to take intelligent risks to move the needle and respond to consumer demand for exceptional, personalized care. With visionary leadership, sustainable execution of an innovative consumer-centric strategy is possible.

Leadership Tips

There are four primary competencies leaders must master to execute on a future-forward strategy.

  • Take risks. Once you've done your homework, take intelligent risks to get your organization where you need to go. In the current climate, healthcare leadership is not for the timid.
  • Partner with innovators. Learn from other organizations that understand consumer needs to adapt principles that are already working.
  • Be creative. Don't just focus on solutions that are right in front of you, but think about what will set your organization up for success in the long-term. Utilize design thinking to let go of the status quo and transform the future.
  • Engage your team. The only way any healthcare organization will sustain change is to ensure its team members are engaged and leaning in to execute toward a common goal.

Smart partnerships with external experts can help healthcare leaders get a 360-degree view of the industry to effectively execute and stay ahead of shifting trends. To learn more about how Studer Group and Huron can help you and your organization overcome disruption, engage stakeholders and lead for the future, reach out to us at partnerships@studergroup.com.



Matthew Bates

Bates, MPH

Matthew Bates, MPH, is an author, national speaker and managing director for Huron's healthcare practice. His decades of experience in healthcare strategy and innovation have earned him the role of trusted advisor to leaders of healthcare organizations across the continuum of care.

Craig Deao

Deao, MHA

Since 2006, Craig Deao, MHA, has been an integral part of Huron | Studer Group as a senior leader for the organization’s speaking and conferences teams, and he now directs thought leadership across Huron’s broader healthcare business.

Hazel Seabrook

Seabrook, RN, MBA

Hazel Seabrook is the clinical market leader for Huron's Cost and Clinical Solution. In her current role, she has the responsibility for directing complex projects from concept to fully operational status. Additionally, she works with the leadership team to identify and develop solutions to help clients meet the demands of the changing clinical landscape.


*Huron commissioned a blind, online survey of 301 healthcare executives that was conducted from May to June 2018. The survey results are statistically significant with a confidence level of 95 percent and a margin of error of +/- 5.5 percent or less.

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