Thinking automation first
Dragovits compares the healthcare industry to a loaded spring with lots of potential for cost and quality gains through automation. He says healthcare leaders need to start thinking about automation before making decisions about building and renovation, before adding services, before hiring staff.
"It's challenging to get people to think that way, but once they get a taste, they get pretty excited," he says.
He foresees big gains as systems grow larger and can not only take advantage of economies of scale, but also invest in dramatic new technologies that can shave headcount organically over time.
Also, technology companies are now increasingly recognizing healthcare as a legitimate business segment.
"These are the kinds of things we're going to have to do in order to be the system of the future," Dragovits says, adding that what's as important as cutting cost is increasing quality.
"I don't think the technology has existed before to really capitalize on automation," he says. "As hospital systems become larger and can take advantage of increasing scale, and are rewarded for doing so, they can afford to be innovative. Anything can have a chip in it now."
This article appears in the April 2012 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.