How to make systemness work for you — and your stakeholders


Health system mergers and acquisitions have produced large-scale organizations in markets all across the country. But many are struggling to achieve true value from their scale. Leaders need to recognize that achieving systemness is a journey that requires a purposeful strategy. It must evolve as the system matures.  

Early in the journey, organizations naturally focus on the operational aspects of systemness. As they advance, they strive to come together to deliver better clinical care and customer experience. More progressive systems look to optimize care delivery and distribution across their population. Ultimately, leading systems aim for truly transformational change to deliver a different type of whole-person care.

In a way, health system maturity is a moving target. You might just be starting out and primarily focused on consolidating revenue cycle operations across acute facilities. Or maybe you have already made meaningful progress establishing consistent productivity standards across your system. Now the task may be to engage your clinical workforce from multiple facilities to work together to reduce care variation. Or perhaps you have advanced your telehealth capabilities enough that you can reach into new geographies — and rationalize your footprint in others.

To evaluate where you are today and where you could be tomorrow, it’s essential to understand the key milestones to systemness. You must also understand the type of value it will generate for your stakeholders at every stage.  Becoming a mature system is a difficult organizational undertaking that can only succeed if all stakeholders understand the value you’re creating. How do you appeal to their needs and expectations? Put yourself in their shoes. Absent an “outside-in” perspective of systemness, leaders will struggle to create a compelling vision to these stakeholders for the change and hard work ahead.

If you are considering, beginning or advancing your systemness journey, ask yourself and your colleagues these questions:

  • What do you want to achieve through systemness?
  • Where is your organization right now in the journey?
  • What barriers does your organization face in achieving systemness?

Achieving the full value of systemness can be difficult. But with a clear vision and strategic approach, you can attain it. To learn how to jumpstart your systemness journey, read the perspective.

About the author

John Simon_headshot

John Simon
Senior Vice President, Provider Practice, Optum Advisory Services

John oversees our consulting work with health systems, medical groups and other provider entities. This work covers strategy, cost, operations, revenue cycle, provider engagement and technology terrains.

He was previously a principal at Ernest and Young. There he held a dual role leading the health advisory market for the central region and the national provider advisory practice.

John has more than 35 years of experience with globally recognized professional service organizations.

He received his Bachelor of Arts in economics and business from the Washington and Jefferson College. He also earned his Master of Health Administration from the Ohio State University.

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