Those of you that follow my blog know that I am passionate about healthcare expansion and growth. I firmly believe in the old maxim “no margin, no mission,” which means that in a privatized healthcare system (with declining government subsidies), even non-profit entities must generate “profit” (i.e., surplus income) in order to achieve their social mission of caring for all members of society; conducting medical research; educating and training new clinicians; developing novel treatment techniques; and generally, advancing the practice of medicine. Furthermore, I believe that volatility in the market creates opportunity, and thus, the current environment has set the stage for some exciting new innovations and developments in healthcare.
However, amid the necessity for expansion and growth, one must not forget that healthcare is, at its most fundamental level, about the human connection. In other words, it is the connection between the medical professional and the patient to care for the mind, body and spirit.
Too often, when we strategize and plan for expansion, we begin with the details of the “how” (methodology) to achieve the “what” (growth). For example, how are we going to expand our surgical centers, deliver services in new territories, hire more qualified physicians, cut costs, improve efficiency, and integrate our medical records systems to improve our ROI? Somewhere buried in the business plan, there may be a few sentences about the “why.”
According to author Simon Sinek, we need to flip this equation. In his book “Start with Why,” Sinek implores business leaders to bring the WHY to the forefront. The WHY must be the focal point of the business plan and clearly articulated before you address the WHAT and HOW. The reason for this, according to Sinek, is that the WHY inspires us, connects us with the consumer (patient), and helps us establish long-term relationships built on trust and loyalty. To be clear, the HOW and WHAT are critical and must be well established to grow your business, but without the WHY, you run the risk of commoditizing your service and alienating consumers.
In healthcare, the WHY is the human connection. If properly placed at the center of your growth strategy – whether to expand a service line at your existing hospital or to partner with an entity overseas – your strategy (and communication thereof) should begin with that premise. The WHY will help you establish a patient-centered culture and motivate your staff to treat each patient with kindness and compassion. It can, and should be, infused throughout the entire patient care continuum, from the moment the patient contacts you for services through the date of discharge or release from care.