The Epidemic of Visual Impairment in Healthcare

The following is an excerpt from Navigant Healthcare’s Pulse Weekly. Click here for a complete copy of this week’s article.

Visual impairment is a significant and growing issue in healthcare worldwide. What we eat, where and how we live correlate to the state of our vision, or lack thereof.

Merriam Webster defines vision as, “the ability to see… something that you imagine….a vivid picture that you see in your mind….a clear idea about what should happen or be done in the future…unusual wisdom in foreseeing what is going to happen.” In the U.S. healthcare system, visual impairment is an issue. We do not see the system clearly.

In the last few weeks, I participated in strategic planning sessions with a federal oversight agency, a major health system, a private health plan, a care coordination company and a drug manufacturer. As I reflected on my experiences, my takeaway is that the biggest issue we face as an industry is our vision about its future.

Many of our organizations are near-sighted: They’re clear about what’s right in front of them in their sector – continued pressure to reduce costs, continued consolidation, escalating transparency about prices and quality, the volume to value incentive changes and uncertainty about the impact of health reform. But, their field of vision is too narrow. Near sighted organizations know little about other sectors and have a blurred view of the industry’s future long-term. The diagnosis: myopia.

A few organizations and agencies are far-sighted: They see the future clearly but can’t see well what’s right in front of them. These organizations sometimes stumble over potholes not seen—the competencies needed to get from here to there, the risks associated with inaction, the cultural changes needed to successfully transform their organization. The diagnosis: hyperopia.

Both myopia and hyperopia can be corrected. When treated, a clear field of vision includes clarity about how all key sectors in healthcare operate, access capital, innovate around business processes, integrate emergent technologies, serve customers and partners, and deliver value that’s sustainable. Their leaders encourage candor and compelling discussion. Their hypotheses about the future are supported by hard data. They are informed about employer activism, consumerism, alternative care, social determinants of health, regulatory constraint and disruptive competitors, and the scale and growth necessary to their enterprise. They don’t perpetuate myths, firewalls and sacred cows. They see near-term challenges and long-term destination clearly. They have 20/20 vision.

Near- and far-sighted organizations lacking corrective lenses often find themselves left in the dust by competitors. But those with corrective lenses make dust.

Reflecting on these five recent experiences, my conclusions are these:

  • Boards of directors must challenge their management teams to think outside their boxes and assess their performance accordingly. Myopia in healthcare is a pandemic. And hyperopia by an organization’s leaders lacking a pragmatic roadmap equally debilitating. It’s a board issue. It’s not good enough to know how to operate effectively in a single sector. Leaders must understand and navigate multiple sectors to be effective.
  • Senior management must be prepared to address visual impairment in our organizations. From the top down and bottom up, visual impairment must be treated. In many organizations, titled leaders lack the vision and ability to lead, and the skills necessary to see the path to traverse difficult terrain. In healthcare, our leaders need regular eye exams.
  • Institutional glaucoma—whether a public agency or private enterprise—must be diagnosed early or blindness results. Many organizations lack the culture where having an eye exam is not an expression of weakness.

Visual impairment is a major public health issue globally. It’s no less an issue in U.S. healthcare.

Paul

Sources: Visual impairment and blindness Fact Sheet N°282,” August 2014; Global Data on Visual Impairments 2010 (PDF), World Health Organization, 2012; Koestler, F. A., The unseen minority: a social history of blindness in the United States, New York: David McKay. (1976). 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Navigant Consulting, Inc. The information contained in this article is a summary and reflects current impressions based on industry data and news available at the time of publication. Any predictions and expectations noted herein are inherently uncertain and actual results may differ materially from those contained in this article. Navigant undertakes no obligation to update any of the information contained in the article.

©2015 Navigant Consulting, Inc.