Healthcare organizations serve as pillars of their communities and principal drivers of a region’s well-being and quality of life. They play a part in attracting residents and businesses. They deliver a sense of community pride, lending credence to the idea that an area is well poised for the future and that it’s a sound place to raise a family or launch a venture.
Any mission of such scope and significance carries unique responsibilities for corporate governance. Healthcare, after all, is in a constant state of change and innovation. And as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, it’s also a business that can turn on a dime, bringing a flood of emergency patients while simultaneously causing revenue to plunge from a drop in elective procedures.
To meet these rapidly changing conditions, boards must be agile, able to act and adjust to major mission shifts that tend to arrive in brief windows of opportunity — and often come with significant risks.
The Pain Points
Healthcare organizations are often sprawling in nature, governed by a primary board with multiple specialty groups within the organization. These bodies tend to be larger than other corporate boards, leading to struggles with cohesion and the prospect of leaving members on the periphery unengaged.
Then come legacy processes that add to the challenge. Healthcare, by nature, generates an enormous amount of data. Yet, many boards still operate via paper-based systems, meaning minutes, reports, and all matter of attendant information must be physically shared — depending upon the issue at hand — with a shifting collection of players throughout the organization. It’s not just a recipe for inefficiency or a risk to privacy – it can imperil agility and swift decision-making at times when they’re needed most.
It also impedes accuracy. Without a central digital platform, multiple boards are left to adopt multiple processes, leaving a confusing and counterproductive disparity between governance practices. This can lead to hard-to-untangle version-control issues, a matter that is especially critical in a highly specialized industry like healthcare, where operational, financial and reputational risk are always at the fore.
There are also compliance issues to consider. Few industries operate under such strict codes of privacy — and for good reason. Healthcare organizations must adhere to HIPAA, MACRA, and the HITECH Act, not to mention concepts like Medical Necessity and Chain of Custody. With so much to manage, even the most dedicated providers can quickly find themselves in trouble.
Consider that all this also takes place within a sprawling network of stakeholders. Depending upon the issue, boards collaborate on their mission with shareholders, donors, administrators, physicians, and staff. Even for the most artful communicators, clean, safe collaboration can become a daunting task.
If nothing else, the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the need for rapid decision-making under constantly evolving circumstances. And it showed above all how strong, efficient, cohesive boards are required to manage these moments with a steady hand. The repercussions of poor corporate governance in such a scenario — be it financial or reputational — are huge.
A Holistic Approach
The days of a phone book-sized stack of paperwork in a large binder are a thing of the past. Modern boards require a communications and information platform that establishes a singular process throughout the organization. With so many types of files in circulation, they need robust file management and stable, high-volume storage.
All the elements of collaboration — file sharing, downloads, and messaging — must be safeguarded under the strictest standards of cybersecurity. After all, it’s one thing for a company to, say, suffer a breach of its social media accounts. It’s quite another when that breach concerns personal medical information.
Cybersecurity in Healthcare: Growth, Threats and Solutions
Yet this platform must go beyond matters of secure, efficient record-keeping. It must also provide the communication tools to allow healthcare boards to overcome the natural obstacles of large or multiple bodies. With the right solution, they can better manage the array of moving parts, driving greater engagement among newer members and refreshment of the veterans. It can put all information at a director’s fingertips, allowing them to gauge risks, strategic options, mission shifts and the challengingly short window to address them all. This kind of enhanced decision-making is especially critical within the confines of a remote environment, when in-person meetings may not be safe to resume for some time to come.
By easing and streamlining communication, a board stands a better chance of functioning at its peak. It allows directors, executives, and management teams to work separately or together, depending upon the matter at hand — issuing granular permissions to specific parts of the system for those who need access while still offering state-of-the-art security for larger collaborative efforts.
The healthcare industry was already undergoing fundamental change well before the pandemic. Medical science continues to race ahead at a breakneck pace, patient demands only continue to grow, and new direct-to-consumer service models are increasingly challenging traditional structures. Managing it all within the unique challenges of healthcare governance requires superior tools to help directors perform at their best.
The cost of not acting involves more than money. It can, quite literally, be a matter of life and death.