Technologies, analytics and other insights gained through population health are keys to meeting the crisis of rising healthcare costs and ageing populations, global experts said at the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland in January. 
 
But as the pace of innovation grows, pressure of leadership in the sector is required to implement change. 
 
Dr Stephen Klasko, President of Thomas Jefferson University and CEO of Jefferson Health, who took part in the Future of Hospitals panel in Davos, wrote in an opinion piece that healthcare is at a critical time. 
 
“If we fail to embrace disruption, the consequences of clinging to legacy systems of care will become even greater, further growing a fragmented, expensive, inequitable health delivery system,” he mentioned.  
 
“The US has strung together popsicle-stick-and-glue federal policies that continue to graft Star Trek-level medicine onto a Fred Flintstone delivery platform. It’s not working for us, and it won’t work globally.”
 
According to Klasko, “it is easier to move health care to a phone than it is to move hospitals to remote communities. In fact, we must get care to where patients are instead of getting patients to where care is located. That is a revolution that is starting now.”
 
In Australia, revolutionaries are developing their skills in implementing innovation by studying their Masters in Healthcare Leadership at Southern Cross University.
 
SCU Online Director of Postgraduate Education in the School of Health and Human Sciences Dr Louise Horstmanshof said the future of healthcare is being transformed through genomics, digital health and artificial intelligence, and robotics. 
 
Dr Horstmanshof said the consumer voice is also growing stronger with system evolution, influencing service design, curriculum development and political support. 
 
As a result, healthcare leaders not only need to understand these developments but, more importantly, their personal role as agents of change. 
 
“While it is good for healthcare leaders to be across the emerging technologies, the role of a leader is not to be the font of all knowledge. Instead, a good leader inspires those around him or her to be open to the benefits of data analytics, while remaining focused on the vision and mission of patient safety and patient-centred care,” Dr Horstmanshof said.
 
Being an inspiring healthcare leader requires a number of skills in order to drive rapid technological uptake and the cultural change it brings.
 
“Good leadership is built on good people skills. These include communication skills, being able to listen and to learn, but also being able to understand and manage the information that is being delivered. Team building skills, negotiation and conflict resolution skills remain important,” Dr Horstmanshof said.
 
“Above all, a good healthcare leader knows how to engage with the flow of information that is needed to lead and foster change, use critical thinking, be open to new ideas, and be able to synthesis the ideas to inspire the health team to deliver on enhanced patient-centred safety and care.”
 
Professor J. Bryan Bennett, the Executive Director of Chicago’s Healthcare Centre of Excellence, wrote about research in 2016 that found that the key to successful implementation of healthcare analytics is leadership. But according to the study’s participants, the challenges to the use of analytics in the sector were leadership (29 per cent), data management (18 per cent) and talent (14 per cent).
 
The research respondents included people from all levels of healthcare within a variety of organisations across the US who commented that problems with leadership included “no champion”, “unclear direction” and a lack of “clear understanding of needs”.
 
“Although the results weren’t surprising, the strength of the argument for better executive leadership skills in healthcare was,” Professor Bennett said.
 
“Many outside of physical healthcare organisations can see the problem, and when you talk to people inside the organisations, they wholeheartedly agree. It’s like the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about but as soon as it’s mentioned everyone starts nodding in agreement.”
 
But Professor Bennett said he understood that healthcare leaders were grappling with one of the great disruptions of our time.
 
“This is by no way meant to disparage current healthcare leaders. They have been dealt a tough hand. No other industry has been asked to make such dramatic changes in such a short period of time.”
 
Professor Bennett said the good news is that leadership, which is “the most important critical success factor in any change management situation”, can be learned.
 
His tips to successful healthcare analytics implementations for leaders include: deploying a good procurement process for software, technology vendors and personnel; ensuring adequate financial and personnel resources; possessing a vision for where the organisation and team is heading; building credibility with team members; and inspiring staff to achieve.
 
At SCU Online, leadership skills aren’t only seen as necessary for the people at the top of the chain of command. All healthcare staff can be leaders. 
 
“Effective leadership is relational. The emphasis should be on building a shared understanding of enabling change from challenging issues and challenging circumstances. Leadership shouldn’t be seen from a hierarchical perspective, but in a transformational sense. All are leaders, so understanding one’s accountability as a leader is the key,” Dr Horstmanshof said.
 
Developing these skills will allow health professionals to contribute towards future proofing the sector.
 
“The challenge lies in re-focusing and retraining the current health workforce, both clinical and non-clinical, into this emerging landscape so that they are more resilient and changeable,” she said.
 
“The Master of Healthcare Leadership offers a unique opportunity for healthcare practitioners from a range of disciplines to engage with each other and with the current and emergent thinkers to consider how best to foster change.”
 
 Interested to read how you can be a leader in Healthcare, check out SCU online
 

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