It’s well known among health care systems that the industry faces a clinician shortage in the future, particularly in specialties like neurology. That means organizations will have a tougher time keeping up with patient demand. And it means individuals could wait longer to get the care they need.
Leaders at OSF HealthCare Illinois Neurological Institute are planning for that future now with the help of OSF Innovation. It all started when Dr. Deepak Nair was newly appointed as the director of Ambulatory and Virtual Neurology at OSF INI.
“After spending months gathering information and feedback from our clinicians as well as our operational leaders, I realized we not only had challenges we needed to deal with today but also didn’t have a clear vision for the future of our service line,” Dr. Nair said. “With a suggestion from my leader, we reached out to OSF Innovation for help.”
Innovation Integration and Performance Improvement is working with OSF INI to map out the next seven to ten years of the Neurosciences Service Line using the future back strategy process. This approach gives an organization the opportunity to define its future and then work backward to implement the actions needed to follow that path.
“OSF INI leaders are establishing who, what and where they want to be ten years from now. They are identifying the steps and functions to get there. And they are determining what technologies need to be in place – all to benefit the organization and the people we serve,” said Brent Cross, director of Transformational Innovation and Commercialization for OSF Innovation.
“It gives them that bright shining light in the future that they can communicate with their Mission Partners and gives them a concrete map they can use to ensure upcoming projects align to their strategy.”
An eye-opening but powerful experience
Before OSF INI could consider its future, it worked with Innovation Integration and Performance Improvement to first develop a vision for the work.
“The vision was to develop a future back strategy that will transform care across 40 subspecialties, driving national recognition for excellent outcomes and cost-effectiveness while providing superior experiences for patients,” said Michelle Bliss, a Performance Improvement specialist for the Ministry. “This was a really important piece to keep us on track for the duration of this work.”
Next, it had to understand its current state, performance, perception in the marketplace, as well as emerging trends in technology, policy and reimbursement. As a result, Innovation Integration and Performance Improvement collected data from a variety of sources, including a market analysis, patient surveys and historical patient experience information. They also benchmarked against leaders in the field of neurosciences.
“We learned so much from this data. One thing that stuck out to me was that the general public doesn’t really understand the neurology program, how we fit into the broader health care system or when they may need to see a physician from our service line,” Dr. Nair said. “It was an eye-opening experience, but it was also powerful as it gives us the information we need to craft a vision for who we need to be, and how we need to position ourselves as a health care system.”
After learning about the current state of OSF INI, Innovation Integration and Performance Improvement interviewed more than 25 stakeholders, including executives, clinicians and thought-leaders from across the service line and collected a number of takeaways. They then held engagement sessions with over 50 thought leaders from across OSF and outside partners virtually to ideate on the future of neurology.
“We had eight small groups go through four brainstorming exercises,” said Nick Heuermann, a strategic program manager for OSF Innovation Integration. “They had the chance to conceptualize the future of the industry, create ideas based on the intersection of three trends, develop ideas that challenge assumptions about neurological care within OSF and draw illustrations of what they believe is exceptional care from the neurology service line. The idea was to collect common themes to help generate a vision for the future.”
Some major themes to come out of the brainstorming sessions included finding ways to improve access to care, creating virtual care options for those who can’t easily travel and determining how primary care providers and neurology can better partner to deliver specialized care.
“As clinicians first, we never really think about the experience of our patients because we are so focused on coming up with ways to treat them,” Dr. Nair said. “Gaining a better understanding of what people want out of the health care system was really valuable. I was really impressed with how broad our conversations were; I think that tells us there’s more than one right answer for how to create the future of neurology care.”
Innovation Integration and Performance Improvement has put together a 60-page report based on all of the information collected, interviews and engaged sessions. The next step is to present the report to executive leaders and then craft a map for the future of the service line.
The long road ahead
While Dr. Nair is excited to soon have a plan for the future, he recognizes that even the best-laid plans can go wrong.
“If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that the reality on the ground can change day to day and year to year,” Dr. Nair said. “However, this future back process has given us much better insight into how to make rational decisions that are in line with the Mission of the Ministry regardless of the situation.”
Once the future back strategy map is built out and approved, Innovation Integration and Performance Improvement will stay connected with OSF INI leadership to design and execute on identified actions within the strategy, consistently track progress and ensure yearly business plans align with the strategy.
“I believe we are already headed in the right direction,” said Dr. Nair. “We are being much more intentional about our decision making and proactive about clearly and transparently communicating our future and the steps we must take to get there. I would highly recommend this experience for any service line or department looking towards the future.”