Einstein’s Definition of Insanity and Its Applicability to the Healthcare Solutions Industry | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Posted On May 10, 2011

Starting with the premise that all providers and all clients in the healthcare industry enter into large, multi-year arrangements with honesty, fairness, and a desire for a successful engagement…why do only a small handful come in on time, on budget, and with measurable outcomes? I think Albert Einstein’s famous statement, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” is, unfortunately, applicable here.

In financial and clinical implementations, ITO/BPO engagements, ADM solutions, clinical transformations, and clinical trial deployments over the past several decades, the providers and clients have been doing essentially the same thing, again and again, and in most cases the engagements have ranged from lackluster to volatile. Yet with all the increasing governmental requirements, major advances in personal and mobile technologies, and demands from patients, customers, physicians and clinicians – and let’s not forget escalating competition – we need to stop the insanity to ensure the problems of the past aren’t continually replicated in the next generation of healthcare solutions.

For healthcare industry improvement or transformation initiatives to succeed, we need methodologies. We need qualified staff to help guide and manage the projects over a multi-year period. And we need to deal with unplanned turnover, inflexible contracts that don’t allow for any change in the client’s strategic direction, ever-shrinking budgets, and the client’s desire to finally have measurable outcomes. So, assuming both sides want to deal in an environment of honesty and candor, and both parties have strong resources, why do we continue to fail? One single word – misalignment.

Misalignment occurs between clients and providers due to differences in objectives, priorities, and performance. For example, if the provider thinks the major objectives are cost and capital expense avoidance, and the client thinks improved service quality, skills and innovation, and time to delivery are the critical success factors, we have misalignment. And the result is relationship tension that can ultimately derail the engagement. Yes, in a perfect world each party knows the other’s objectives. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and so this doesn’t happen often. Combine that issue with the changing landscape the client deals with over a multi-year engagement, e.g., acquisitions, new product offerings, strategic changes in direction, etc., and the relationship can explode quickly. And even if the two parties agree on the business objectives, it does not mean they both give them the same priorities. For example, I know of one particular instance in which the client wanted significant focus on innovation and meeting strategic objectives, while the supplier felt it was doing its job by using low-rate resources. Without understanding these types of gaps, how can we fix the misalignment? We can’t!

We’ve heard similar discussions before, and each fix had a methodology or clever name. But few were implemented, and even fewer were successful. The result is continuation of Einstein’s definition of insanity. As we deal with next generation solutions for the healthcare industry, let’s get sane and change the results by viewing large, complex or strategic engagements from a holistic point of view.

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