Systemness as a Lever for Greater Health System Resilience

“Systemness” is a word coined by Kyruus CEO Graham Gardner to describe operating in a way that enables the system to create more value than the sum of its parts. In a recent essay, Gardner described how systemness can contribute to health systems’ resilience.

Hospitals and health systems are under more strain than they’ve ever been, and the word “resilience” is being bandied about everywhere from leadership development books to conversations about physician burnout. While there are plenty of initiatives that organizations can undertake to build resilience, Gardner argued that striving for systemness is the single most important business priority for any health system that seeks to survive in the long term. And the most important and visible parts of systemness are patient access and provider network management.

In a Kyruus survey of 1,000 consumers. 82 percent of respondents said appointment availability was extremely or very important in provider selection; 77 percent said the same about location. This sentiment jibes with the recent growth of alternate sites of care like retail clinics and urgent care clinics.

On the bright side, the Kyruus survey also revealed that 75 percent of consumers said it is extremely or very important for a healthcare provider to be affiliated with a hospital or health system, and 82 percent said the reputation of the hospital or health system was an extremely or very important factor in provider selection. And this is where health systems are well-positioned to differentiate themselves if they’re able to meet the demand for more convenient access and sites of care and link those sites within a broader health system.

The first thing health systems should do to achieve systemness is to build a directory of providers, their specialties, when and where the providers are available, and what insurance those providers take, Gardner wrote. When health systems can see that catalog, they can facilitate better patient-provider matching, which ensures that patients have short waits to see a provider and that those providers’ appointment calendars are filled.

Most importantly, Gardner said, systemness fosters the business resilience that health systems need in order to weather the increasing pressure on financial and operational performance. A system that truly operates as a system can attract and capture more demand and also retain existing patients in a way that drives long-term stability, supports patient care goals, and provides valuable space to drive innovation in an industry where it is sorely lacking.

Read Graham Gardner’s full essay here.