The 19th Annual Not-for-Profit Health Care Investor Conference was held last week in New York City, providing an important opportunity for not-for-profit health systems to maintain a dialogue with investors. It also allows for an interesting look at where the field is headed as hospitals and health systems redefine the “H.”

This year, it was clear to see how the field is moving rapidly from the traditional – fee-for-service, episodic care – to the innovative – a value-based continuum of care that meets patients where they are and focuses on keeping them healthy.

Listening to the presentations, I saw three main takeaways:

  1. Take Care of Today. Nothing short of exceptional performance will do. Delivering high-quality care remains job one, and hospitals can never take their eye off that goal. Not only do patients deserve our very best, but high-quality care will drive expenses lower over time. Never sacrifice.

 

Consumer engagement and driving an excellent patient experience are not just important strategies, they are foundational. New digital platforms are helping to take the friction out of patients’ experience navigating the care system, but we can do more. The goal is to create an experience so friction-free, the patient will want to be a customer for life.

 

Cost reduction requires discipline but it is achievable with a relentless focus on operational excellence.

 

  1. Transform for Tomorrow. There is no going back and no standing still. Change has come and must be managed.

 

Partnerships offer one path to the future. We heard about a number of joint ventures focused on building a continuum of care, as well as integration with health plans.

 

Affordability is a key issue for patients, payers and the system as a whole. This means providing better care at lower cost. Care must be affordable because thriving individuals, families and communities require it. And consumer pressure will only build. Hospitals and health systems must get better.

 

The renewed focus on health versus disease will continue. We need to focus not only on prevention but also on the social determinants of health and our communities’ unique needs to propel prevention and help patients sustain their health.

 

  1. Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Culture and Leadership. Management guru Peter Drucker reportedly once said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” and forward-looking leaders are taking that to heart, working to break down silos and create unified operating models. Change is difficult to manage well, and transformative organizations need a flexible culture that welcomes partnerships and innovation to spur rapid change. The importance of leadership and managing cultural change can’t be underestimated.

 

The conference was sponsored by AHA, Citi and the Healthcare Financial Management Association.