Globally, healthcare organisations are struggling to meet the competing challenges of improving care quality, growing demand, and affordability. ‘What’ we want is pretty straightforward, but ‘how’ to deliver increased value is the thorny issue, particularly when compounded by a global shortage of qualified staff. Technology can certainly help. But healthcare is ultimately delivered by people, to people. If we neglect this when we attempt to increase value, we may significantly limit the impact of our efforts.
Where the efficiency model falls short
For many years, it has been standard practice to drive efficiency in healthcare – ‘do more’ with resources. Over the last dozen years, I have been part of the application of value thinking in healthcare, inspired by people like Sir Muir Gray, Porter & Teisberg, Richard Bohmer, Henry Mintzberg, and the IHI Triple Aim. This has moved the thinking to providing outcomes rather than outputs, which is a good objective.
Even within value-based healthcare, focusing on process efficiency – ‘doing more’ and the elimination of waste - certainly is important to improve healthcare. Especially when processes are predictable and reliable with fairly certain outcomes. But, not all of healthcare is straightforward process. Diagnoses may be uncertain or multiple, treatment unclear and the outcomes sometimes far from certain.
There is the human side of caring, like knowing when to offer a comforting hand, or when to stay silent in delivering bad news. This is about important factors like empathy, judgement, professionalism, experience, and even assessing risks in real time. Then there is also the human side of making change happen. Change must be for the right reasons, addressing the issues and priorities that actually matter, with real involvement of all stakeholders. Ultimately motivating people to deliver optimal care and change.
It is not just ‘doing more’, but doing more of the right things. Inattention to the human aspects of continuous improvement in our healthcare organisations is detrimental, and the consequences well described in for example the Francis and Berwick Reports¹.
The vital human side of transforming healthcare
To improve the value-add of a healthcare organisation or system – in terms of quality, safety, experience, productivity, or cost-effectiveness – one must start with what is fundamental. Start with the needs of patients, and then consider the human interactions between those who receive care and those who deliver it (patients themselves, carers, and healthcare professionals).
This is the basis of the approach Philips uses when helping to improve healthcare. Around the human interactions, an appropriate holistic environment can be designed and implemented. This includes the physical and behavioural settings that supports care-givers to provide the best care.
What we often see in healthcare is that the environment can actually make caring more difficult, and can get in the way of staff and the work they are trying to do. Supportive environments facilitate prevention, safety, quality of care, productivity, workflow, and a good experience for all involved. Healthcare professionals are supported to achieve what they are intrinsically motivated to do.
Our way of working
Rather than a simple efficiency approach or a purely patient-centred one, Philips includes all the human sides of healthcare. This can be in service design, priority setting and in creating the circumstances that best sustain optimal healthcare interactions.
In healthcare transformation projects, Philips draws on our understanding, knowledge, and experience of:
- The perspectives of patients and families: what they need and value, and their real experiences
- The perspectives of staff: what they do, what motivates and engages them, and their experiences
- Knowledge of the support/ operational structures, infrastructure and technology of healthcare organisations
- Culture, leadership, healthcare systems, innovation, and foresight of rapidly evolving changes
- How to use all of this to effectively redesign, change, and demonstrably improve healthcare delivery
Our heritage is built on understanding people
In our long history in healthcare, Philips has always been an organisation that understands people. The needs of consumers and patients have always come first for us. We have accumulated skills, knowledge, and tools in product development for both healthcare professionals and consumers. We have applied these to help transform healthcare, and to improve the healthcare experience from all perspectives.
This approach has been used in over 1,250 healthcare facilities around the world where we have purposefully and functionally optimised the environment. This helps healthcare facilities deliver better care, create a less stressful experience for patients and families, and a better work environment for staff in which they can be more productive.