The responsible business of healthcare

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How an innovative balance of the clinical with the commercial can be the route to delivering better care

“Healing is an art. Medicine is a calling. Healthcare is a business.” Not according to many, it seems.

In this game-changing article, Dawn Bruce, Philips Services & Solutions Delivery Leader, Canada explains why breaking down negative perceptions of business in healthcare and adopting new ‘responsible’ business practices has the potential to positively transform ‘blocked’ and ‘stuck’ aspects of hospital operations.

She explains: “Business and healthcare have long had an uneasy relationship but a modern, innovative approach to healthcare transformation doesn’t have to be the ruthless commercialization of care. Instead, the adoption of effective business models and business practices can realize the best of organizational and operational strategy and fuse it with the high practice standards of those passionate about the Hippocratic Oath. Clinical professionals should absolutely be focusing their time on the medicine part but hospital operations has to be run like a business.

In addition to positing her belief that responsible business is the sweetspot for change, Dawn Bruce also shares her advice on the areas and ways in which healthcare facilities can adopt processes and practices from responsible business and partner to drive improvements without impacting the integrity of care.

From business to better healthcare: Determining where to start and what to borrow from big (good) business.

“Imitation is the greatest form of flattery” and, according to Dawn Bruce, clever borrowing from responsible business starts by considering impact; working out where and what innovative approaches proven to work in business will deliver the most value. Her recommendations include:

Recommendation 1

Start in operations,
the control center of any hospital

Dawn Bruce’s recommendation is to focus operationally and apply operational management principles. She explains: “Hospital operations is central to operational efficiency. Hospital operations was transforming pre COVID-19 but now it is in the hot seat as innovation in this area can clearly be seen as offering a new way to deliver value-based care since perceived customer value = total benefits / total costs. The importance of operations wasn’t always recognised in business, let alone in healthcare, and yet operations management is key. Hospitals are large and complex organisations, yet they function largely - even despite shifts and investments (and latterly the focus has been on tech but not on the whole with ops change management – without the sophistication and technology inherent in other businesses.”


About the author


Dawn Bruce,

Services and Solutions Delivery Leader, Philips Canada

A passionate advocate of positive partnerships and purposeful business Dawn Bruce is Services and Solutions Delivery Lead for Philips in Canada. An originator of the Operational Intelligence approach and backer of people-powered progress and soft skills, she has extensive experience of outcomes-driven business transformation and healthcare system change management.

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Recommendation 2

Adopt a holistic, integrated approach
fusing people, process and technology

Dawn Bruce and her team help healthcare systems to apply and embed innovative operational management and improvement strategies by using the Philips Operational Intelligence approach of the partnership of continually synchronized people, processes and technology. To help operational staff to get started, she recommends focusing the integration of people, process and technology, with an appreciation always of the human element to ensure change.

Recommendation 3

A focus on people
should start by innovating the customer experience and embracing collaborative leadership and management styles

Priority 1

The customer experience

Dawn Bruce advises looking to hospitality as a guide on customer-centricity. She continues: “Any kind of hospitality organization puts the customer at the center of everything that they do. No matter what the end result is, the customer’s experience is prioritized and we need to think the same way in healthcare". A standout example of zoning in on the customer experience is the application of Disney principles to healthcare. The Walt Disney World Resort created an experience for healthcare professionals to study Disney’s leadership, management and service strategies and it is so popular so that healthcare professionals now make up 30% Disney Institute professional enrollment.

Storyboard 2

Many other examples of the transference of skills and learnings from the hospitality experiences abound, particularly from the luxury hotel industry. So much that increasing numbers of healthcare organizations are recruiting from the hospitality industry and luxury hotel operator chains such as the Marriot and Ritz Carlton.

Priority 2

Leadership as a cross-functional art and the rise of the servant leader

A well-run organization makes an impact on how care is delivered, and modern approaches to leadership at all levels plays a key part in care outcomes. In healthcare though, it can be difficult to step back from the immediate ‘point-of-care’ role and think operationally.

Dawn Bruce explains: “Clinicians don’t always have the opportunity to grow and develop and understand the different management techniques of their teams and have methodology underpin it, because they are too focused around saving lives and saving patients. As they move into operational roles, understanding and applications of the principles of business leadership can be lacking. Medicine is a profession where ‘God complexes’ can abound and where hierarchies can be steep and intimidating. Modern approaches to leadership are essential to breaking down silos and ensuring performance by limiting waste and duplication".

To counter this Dawn Bruce recommends exploring the emerging concept of servant leadership, a leadership style that inverts the norm. Instead of the people working to serve the leader, the leader exists to serve the people. This is very much different to traditional leadership styles, focusing on ‘command and control’.

Storyboard 3

Recommendation 4

Adopting highly effective business processes
including Lean, Agile as well as systems thinking and design thinking

Priority 3

Lean business processes

According to Dawn Bruce, healthcare is adopting lean business principles such as Lean Six Sigma to create more operationally intelligent health systems, to focus on their customers through targeting eight key wastes. For example, Lean Six Sigma is used to reduce defects that can result in medical errors, manage costs and operational improvement and quality. She explains: “Lean methodologies are like running your hospital as a factory, because the routes of Six Sigma go back to Toyota and it was designed to be able to run a factory. That is readily accepted, but when you start talking about running the hospital as a business… they are not recognizing the benefit of having that as well. It’s really critical.”

Storyboard 4
Priority 4

Complement KPIs with OKR

Objectives and key results (OKR) help establish high-level, measurable goals by establishing ambitious goals and outcomes that can be tracked over the quarter. The framework is designed to help organizations establish far-reaching goals in days instead of months. Dawn Bruce explains why her teams include both KPIs and OKRs as part of the change and Operational intelligence approach: “We use both KPIs and OKRs as performance indicators, but in healthcare, we find it particularly useful to track OKRs as they are more specific with quantifiable results. Utilizing the two offers the opportunity for macro and micro operational visibility.”

Priority 5

Adopt disruptive innovation

Much of the frustration linked with the scale and pace of change within healthcare is not linked to effort, talent or resources. Instead, it stems from attempts to make the current healthcare model fit the demands now expected of it. Dawn Bruce suggests that one of the most positive learnings healthcare can make from business is to utilise businesses own learning from transformation and the innovations processes that have facilitated it.

She explains: “In addition to being a responsible business propelled by our purpose to make life better, one of the most compelling reasons to partner with a company like Philips is the benefit of shared learnings in addition to shared values. From being a siloed organization, we’ve spent the past 7 years transforming to be a future forward health technology organization, working to address many of the operational challenges that our hospital partners are also facing. They can learn from our mistakes and employ the fast fail principle. In addition to this, we can also help them adopt the disruptive innovation tools that have made change stick.”

The tools Dawn cites include the importance of multidisciplinary teams, embracing and building design thinking capabilities and new skills development, such as developing empathy, radical collaboration and rapid prototyping. She recommends that these soft skills should be coupled with systems thinking capabilities, the tech -originated practice of understanding the interconnectedness of how health systems operate, their complexity and how they interact.

Storyboard 5

Recommendation 5

Embrace technology
and drive for interoperability but learn from business that achieving this is a cultural, rather than a technical shift

Priority 6

Strategically manage technology

Dawn Bruce explains how the strategic management of technology can break down some of the misconceptions of technology and equipment purchase, even to the point of highlighting that buying the best isn’t always the best choice:

“Healthcare organizations in Canada and many other parts of the development work can typically want to buy the Rolls Royce of everything because they don’t know when they’re next going to get funding. It’s a feast or famine approach. And yet a partnership established as equals on the same team makes it possible to open up new ways of thinking about planning, purchasing and maintaining and puts in place a strategic approach to managing technology. For example, we were able to ask our partners at MacKenzie, ‘do you really need the Rolls Royce? What if you go for a lower level or a different configuration that frees up budget in order for you to spend somewhere else. You could even buy two of them for example.’

This type of business minded approach establishes the foundation of a different type of problem-solving dialogue-based relationship that unpicks the true challenges and opportunities amid the complexity. It prevents purely transactional relationships, removes ‘catalogue-based thinking’ and drives true vendor agnostic solutions thinking.”

It’s clear that there is a lot that business can offer to healthcare, so long as the partners involved have their purpose and priorities aligned.

Dawn Bruce sums it up: “We’re all invested in making healthcare accessible to all and to do so, we need to share and apply best practice principles. Applying business learnings is essential if we’re to shift away from fee-for-volume to fee-for-service value models. In order to adapt - or pivot - to new models of value-based care, healthcare is slowly embracing ideas, concepts and thinking – many of which may have originated in the business world - to improve the way healthcare is delivered and experienced and that can only be a good thing.”

The responsible business of healthcare

Read the full article 'The responsible business of healthcare and discover how Philips is partnering with global health providers and systems to apply its innovative Operational Intelligence approach to hospital operations management and innovation'.

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