A few years ago, I was involved in managing the technology implementation for a hospital. The hospital was run by a balanced mix of ownership between the practicing doctors and the hospital health system administration. Although they were all thinking about the needs of the patients, it quickly became apparent that there was a major difference in the focus of the two groups. The clinicians were expressing their need for tools to promote their creative practice of medicine, to quickly document encounters, and to access quick insights on their patients. The administrators were focused on promoting consistency of care on a platform that would allow reporting and physician performance assessment. While the two go hand in hand at some level, the communication gap was creating a big disconnect and a lot of tension. The physicians felt they were being controlled and forced into a rigid way of practicing medicine by their financially driven administrators, citing the perceived lack of care for their patients. The administrators felt their clinicians were not in touch with the reality of financial sustainability and quality assurance and were ignoring the research that went into creating clinical standards and protocols that were statistically proven to treat conditions.
Looking back through years of working in those situations and the evolution of EMRs and Population Health Management systems, it occurred to me that technology was not the problem. The division between administrators and clinicians could be solved by having a more inclusive approach and better communication.
As they searched for systems, the approach I observed to work best is when the administrators prioritized listening to the needs of their clinical team, partnered with them to develop systems that augmented their workflows, and provided insights and empowerment, rather than forcing systems on them. The top-to-bottom approach of forcing implementation of new systems often creates a lack of engagement, rejection of technology, and division within the system even when those systems are actually good for everyone.
Senior living communities, operators and a similar disconnect
My experience with senior living communities is relatively new. Roughly 1.5 years in, and while I believe I can qualify as an expert in the realm of quality of life and overall care delivery, I definitely don’t feel the same way as it relates to the dynamics of senior living communities. I am, however, surrounded by experts. We have also developed a culture of curiosity and continuous learning.
We cannot help but notice the parallels with the individual senior living communities and their operators. Very much like with the experiences I described above, everyone involved has their heart in the right place: delivering the best care possible for their elders. The communities want to express their creative way to care for their elders, while the operators are focused on doing so across their entire portfolio in a consistent and financially sustainable manner.
In today’s enterprise transformation, it is my belief that implementing systems that provide insights on best practices for the communities and developing a reporting mechanism to understand and relay lessons learned, while giving communities the space to determine the best approach for the unique needs of their elders is the approach that will win in the long term. For some, it may take a cultural shift and careful wording so both parties’ needs and feelings are considered and validated in the process. Let’s trust each other and our intentions, and let’s not fear technology as it is not the culprit here. It is a necessary step to provide the scale and better insights we all need to improve the quality of life of our elders.