Even pre-COVID-19, macro trends affecting healthcare organizations were numerous and complex. Evolving care and payment models, a push to explore mergers, acquisitions, and strategic partnerships, and the precipitous rise in healthcare consumerism were just some of the dynamics prompting healthcare organizations to embrace new ways of thinking. Since the start of the pandemic, these drivers for change have only gotten more imperative.
To successfully navigate the current public health crisis and also maintain long-term financial viability, hospitals and health systems need to acknowledge and respond to existing and emerging trends. Depending on the organization, this may involve finding new ways to:
- Increase patient access to care and address social determinants that limit people’s abilities to effectively address their overall health and well-being.
- Streamline communication between providers to enable seamless information exchange across diverse care settings.
- Optimize workforces to ensure clinical and non-clinical staff are working at the top of their licenses.
- Utilize telehealth solutions to imbed virtual consults and visits into a reimagined care delivery model that more closely aligns with patient demand and expectations.
- Maximize the performance of existing assets while offering a more comprehensive set of services to consumers, reaching into ambulatory, community and home-based care.
Regardless of an organization’s specific strategic goals, the act of pursuing, incorporating and operationalizing best practices, advanced care models and innovative technologies provides opportunities for health systems to differentiate themselves from their competition. This work can also drive sustainable growth and profitability while optimizing the workforce and engaging patients in a more collaborative and personalized relationship.
Challenges to achieving true innovation
Although every organization aims for improvement, full-scale change and redesign is often out of reach. “Traditionally, healthcare organizations have been more focused on operations and less on pursuing and executing on innovation,” says Brian McGough, managing director at Ziegler, a specialty investment bank that provides access to capital, strategic partnerships, investment opportunities, and differentiated market insights.
“Because of this operational focus, hospitals and health systems are frequently unaware of the transformative opportunities that exist and how to leverage them to reimagine current operations,” said McGough. Even if organizations are well-acquainted with next-generation offerings and best practice approaches, most hospitals simply don’t have the bandwidth to effectively assess and activate new programs and solutions.”
However, with the right resources, hospitals and health systems can uncover, explore and implement initiatives that can evolve and transform their way of doing business, expanding and integrating their service lines and capabilities to support patient care for the future.
An experienced strategic adviser can cut through the noise
Whether an organization is looking to solve an immediate problem, such as growing a specific service line, or it wants to advance a broader, longer-term strategy, it is helpful to have a knowledgeable partner that can curate and evaluate different opportunities.
“We partner with hospitals and health systems across the country to explore their options,” says Neil Borg, senior managing director at Ziegler. “First, we assess their existing assets and then we find and suggest ways to improve, expand or scale their offerings. We review and recommend a variety of strategic options, including partnerships, investments in emerging and best practice businesses, joint ventures and mergers and acquisitions. Our overarching aim is to introduce health systems to different possibilities, organizations and companies that can help them further their objectives.”
Because Ziegler offers advisory services and has developed its own venture fund investment capabilities, the company has unique exposure and access to best-of-breed solutions, best practice organizations and leading technology players that can support health systems’ short- and longer-term strategic initiatives.
“Due to our long history working with healthcare organizations and communities, we know the market, as well as current and evolving business models, different structuring mechanisms and business line expansion opportunities that should be on their radar,” says Borg. “Our team helps refine the organization’s goals into transaction-able situations where we can apply our domain knowledge and relationships in sectors such as ambulatory, post-acute, telehealth, patient access, and care redesign, and uncover transformative partnership opportunities.”
For example, based on an organization’s objectives, Ziegler may recommend a venture partnership with a startup technology company. “This type of arrangement allows a health system to try a new solution with little upfront investment,” says McGough. “While the company developing the solution leads the process and pace of innovation, the health system can capitalize on any advancements, piloting or trialing the solution before making a more substantial financial commitment. This approach allows the health system to rapidly grow its understanding of emerging solutions with relatively low risk. Without this exposure to new and innovative companies, the health system may not learn about or become familiar with the range of opportunities available.”
Another example might involve Ziegler engaging with a health system to review the system’s post-acute assets, including service lines like home health, hospice, lab or physician-based offerings.
“We work to help organizations transform service lines that might have been overlooked into strategic assets that advance their overall goals and better align relationships with health plan partners and patients alike,” says Borg. “Better alignment can demonstrate increased value to health plans, drive improved provider-patient connectivity and enhance patient outcomes and satisfaction. Overlaying digital front-door and patient-engagement strategies further creates better coordination of care, resources and communications. In our view, although no one health system is the same, there is no reason to recreate the wheel to maximize one’s capital, time and resources. We can help organizations explore whether it’s better to partner with a peer organization already doing the work, invest in a solution to enable the work or participate in a vendor relationship. Our comprehensive assessment will consider all the possibilities, and we will make targeted recommendations that can help the entity achieve its specific goals.”
Given the current pandemic, telehealth has emerged as a particular area of focus, with numerous health systems looking to enhance their telehealth programs. Once again, Ziegler can help health systems understand the telehealth innovations available in today’s market and assist those systems in exploring how they can apply telehealth technologies to their unique cultures and environments.
“Fundamentally, telehealth is about workforce optimization and logistics management,” says Grant Chamberlain, managing director at Ziegler. “So, organizations need to be considering how their telehealth strategy facilitates provider workforce optimization at all levels. Sub-specialists, specialists, primary care doctors, nurse practitioners, case workers, social workers and even family members are all part of workflow streams. And a robust and forward-facing telehealth offering must create easy connections between these streams to ensure patients can access the right provider with the right level of licensure in the right setting at the right moment in time. There are numerous enabling solutions, platforms and providers that can efficiently deliver these multifaceted telehealth programs. Our job is to acquaint organizations with these technologies and demonstrate how they interrelate to drive a high ROI and improved clinical access.”
In addition to diverse capabilities and services, Ziegler takes the time to understand each client’s objectives and delivers corresponding advice and solutions that address a system’s unique needs.
“We understand the different dynamics in the space and can come to the table with partners and solutions that address an organization’s pain points,” says Chamberlain. “We leverage every tool in our arsenal — access to capital, ability to identify like-minded strategic partners, relationships with a comprehensive network of innovators and industry leaders and years of applicable industry knowledge — to help organizations not only welcome innovation but make it a core aspect of how they approach the future.”
Amid uncertain times, the idea of embracing innovation may seem counterintuitive. However, that is exactly what hospitals and health systems must do to navigate the current dynamics and lay the foundation for a solid future. Rooted in a core belief of making a difference in communities across the country, Ziegler partners with healthcare organizations to advance health, wealth and well-being through industry-specific advice and tailored financial solutions.
This published piece is provided solely for informational purposes. HFMA does not endorse the published material or warrant or guarantee its accuracy. The statements and opinions by participants are those of the participants and not those of HFMA. References to commercial manufacturers, vendors, products, or services that may appear do not constitute endorsements by HFMA.