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By Monica E. Oss

Don’t be a Luddite (and in case you forgot what that means, it’s a person opposed to new technology). Emerging technologies have the potential to make traditional service provider organizations less competitive – and less sustainable. From a strategy perspective, the best course of action is to position your organization to be ahead of the competition by leveraging available technologies in your operations and service delivery. The good news? It is not as difficult (or expensive) as you think.

The 2019 OPEN MINDS Technology & Informatics Institute made me think a lot about the competitive threats posed by organizations armed with new technology. In my closing presentation, Navigating The Tech Dichotomy: How To ‘Do It Now’ & Get Competitive Advantage Today, I mentioned that if what you’re doing can be replaced by a computer you will be replaced (see If You Can Be Replaced By A Smartphone, You Will Be and The Fear of Displacement Restricts the Field: Disruptive Protectionism & Disruptive Innovation in Health Care/strong). One example: Ultrasounds are now available via smartphone app – a threat to imaging clinics everywhere (see Is The Health Center Of The Future In The Palm Of Your Hand?).

These observations were echoed by keynote speakers Alison Nelson, senior vice president for technology at Optum, and Jon Linkous, chief executive officer of the Partnership For Artificial Intelligence, Telemedicine & Robotics In Healthcare. Mr. Linkous used the example of AI Cure is a facial recognition app that can be downloaded to a cell phone to help with medication monitoring. “For certain individuals with mental health conditions, who are required to take meds on a regular basis, this type of application and others like it are starting to take hold,” said Mr. Linkous, who expects this type of app to be common in health care settings in four or five years. Mr. Linkous also mentioned the Care Angel app as one of many innovations fueled by artificial intelligence. It touts reduced administrative costs and improved measure reporting for HEDIS, HCHAPS, and STAR because the chat bot or “virtual nurse” is linked to electronic health record systems.

Ms. Nelson outlined Optum’s significant investment in a wide range of technologies. Optum “offers access to different types of providers in a variety of ways, such as video, chat, and text” said Ms. Nelson (see Health Plan Invest In Consumer Engagement) – from teenagers who prefer texting to face-to-face interactions, to seniors, some of whom live in rural areas and prefer talking with clinical professionals live through online chat and telemedicine.

But this wide range of emerging technologies has strategic implications. Some traditional services will be replaced by technology, other services will be facilitated by technology, and a new category of tech-enabled services will emerge. That makes service line planning and revenue projections a challenge – and a strategic imperative.

Admittedly, the adoption of technology in the health and human service space – particularly consumer-facing technology – has been slow for many reasons. But value-based reimbursement and increasing demands for consumer convenience will soon make organizations that fail to embrace technology less competitive.

The strategic challenge of new technologies isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. The challenge for executive teams is to develop sound strategies for sustainability that are informed by payer and consumer preferences for technology-related value. And then use a structured process to invest in technologies that support those strategies. Our team has created great tools for strategic planning (see Looking Ahead To 2020—The Trends That Matter For Strategy and How To Develop A Strategic Plan: An OPEN MINDS Executive Seminar On Best Practices In Strategy, Portfolio Management & Scenario-Based Planning). And, we have a field-tested approach to selecting and optimizing new technologies (see 2900+ Tech Solutions & 50,000+ Apps—How To Select The Treatment Technology That Fits With Your Strategy).

I thought the good news in the closing keynote at the institute was that the first steps in this process involve making better use of technologies already in place – and leveraging inexpensive common technologies. This “Do It Now” list is a good starting place for executive teams that are overwhelmed by all the complex and expensive technology options (see Do It Now!).

My main takeaway? Start now. Start looking at how your team uses technology to improve back-end efficiencies, optimize care teams, and expand access (see Using Technology To Personalize Consumer Care & Expand Access and New Approaches To Autism: Early Intervention, Telehealth & More ). And start small. Build a team of people who will champion change and who will help the rest of the team test new approaches that will separate your organization from the competition.

Learn more about technology implementation with these resources from the OPEN MINDS Circle Library:

  1. Going From Tech Tolerant To Tech Savvy: How Managerial Staff Can Directly Impact The Adoption Of Technology
  2. Is The Health Center Of The Future In The Palm Of Your Hand?
  3. Best Practices In The Shift To Virtual Health: How To Integrate Digital Treatment Tools Into Programs & Treatment Models
  4. Managing Your Team To ‘Tech Savvy’
  5. 4 Keys To Make New Tech Work
  6. Making The Right Tech Investments For Your Organization: An OPEN MINDS Executive Seminar On Technology Budgeting & Planning
  7. An Executive Guide To Strategic Partnerships That Last: How To Leverage Technology Investments For The Long-Term
  8. When New Contracts Mean New Technology: 4 Things To Remember
  9. Using Virtual Care To Improve Your Value Proposition: Best Practices In Integrating Technology Into Your Community-Based Program
  10. Training Is Key To Getting Tech ROI

For more on leveraging technology in a changing landscape, join us on June 2 at The 2020 OPEN MINDS Strategy & Innovation Institute for the keynote address, Innovation By Design: Capturing Value In Healthcare led by Carl Clark, M.D., president and chief executive officer, Mental Health Center of Denver.

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