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By Monica E. Oss

The health and human service landscape is the perfect storm right now for specialty provider organizations. The synergistic effects of a few key market factors—reimbursement, consumerism, disruptive competitors, and consolidation—are combining to fundamentally change the competitive advantage and sustainability of traditional service lines for most organizations in the field.

The implications of these changes on strategy and innovation were the focus of my closing remarks, Incorporating Innovation Into Everyday Operations: The Strategy For Sustainability, at today’s 2018 OPEN MINDS Strategy & Innovation Institute. My takeaway from the discussion over the past two days—discussions of managed care for I/DD (see  Managed Care & The I/DD Population: The Health Plan Perspective On The Strategic Challenges & Partnership Opportunities In A New Market), of new integrated care models (see Going Beyond Innovation – Developing Partnerships With Health Plans), of new developments in telehealth and virtual care (see Can Telehealth Be Sustainable For Specialty Provider Organizations? A Town Hall Discussion On Reimbursement, Regulation, & The Next Generation Of Telepsychiatry), of health plan models for value-based reimbursement (see How To Develop A Case Rate: A Guide To Bundled Payments)—is that few organizations in the health and human service space will have a sustainable future model without innovation.

The challenge for health and human service executive teams is that there is a multi-part process (and many potential pitfalls) to harnessing the power of innovation to create a future sustainability strategy. The first element is finding the right strategy—a strategy that is focused on sustainability, that is scenario-based, and is market metrics-informed. Then, there is the decision about what type of innovation—new processes and/or technologies, new service lines, and/or new collaborations and partnerships—are required to implement the strategy. Finally, a deliberate plan to take the innovation plan from concept to reality is required for success.


While there are many primers on innovation implementation and implementation science, there are three key elements for executive teams to attend to: The first is the “plan”—the action detailing, project planning, budgeting, and structure for implementing the plan. This is the technical part. The second is the human side of the equation—the leadership of the innovation initiative and the resulting organizational change. Finally, there is the management of the process using metrics. This is both the technical ability to produce real-time performance data and executive competency to make course corrections based on the numbers.

The path to sustainability will be different for every organization it the field—a complex math of service line, location, payer mix, market competition, state policy, and more. But what will be the same for most organizations is the need to either “make change” or “be changed.” That’s what innovation (or lack of innovation) is all about.

For more on innovation best practices, check out these resources in the OPEN MINDS Industry Library:

  1. The 2018 OPEN MINDS National Innovation Survey: Innovation Adoption Among Specialty Provider Organizations
  2. The Innovation Conundrum
  3. Fulfill The Mission, Sustain The Margin
  4. Don’t Let The Big Disruptors Out Of Your Sight
  5. Technology Innovation For The I/DD Population – An Interview With Mark Emery Of Imagine!
  6. The Transition To Value: Addressing The Challenges Of Performance Measurement, Talent & Capital
  7. Innovative Enough To Keep Pace With The Competition?
  8. Leading The Newly Merged Tech-Enabled Organization
  9. Making Change Happen – From Strategic Planning To Successful Implementation
  10. Developing Innovative Strategies To Diversify Funding & Revenue Sources (Coffee Break Case Study)

And, for more coverage from The 2018 OPEN MINDS Strategy & Innovation Institute, stay tuned over the next few days as we continue the discussion on how specialty provider organizations can adjust their strategies to meet a changing market. And, you can follow us on twitter @openmindscircle #OMstrategy.

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