Health Policy February 18, 2019
How to develop a 21st Century health system

By Dr Mark Britnell - World Healthcare Journal

Healthcare systems around the world are facing unprecedented challenges that require policymakers, payers, providers and suppliers to rethink how they work. As I outline in my book ‘In Search of the Perfect Health System’, we wouldn’t start from where we are, knowing what we now know. It is difficult to transform institutions, professions and infrastructure that have developed over centuries and absorbed huge amounts of time, money and power.

While it is not desirable to ‘lift and shift’ healthcare system parts from one country to another, it is possible to stimulate ideas, share possibilities and encourage local innovation, adaption and adoption. There are more similarities than differences in most countries’ health systems and we should do more together to illustrate what works.

The unifying factor in these articles sharing our global learning, from building new universal health coverage systems for whole countries, through to delivering advanced health data and analytics for providers, is that health system and political leadership has never been more important. This is vital to facilitate the culture change needed, yet many leaders underestimate the level of commitment required.

Our global research ‘Staying power - success stories in global healthcare’ set out to identify key factors for healthcare transformation, interviewing 65 health system leaders across 30 countries in 6 continents. Overwhelmingly healthcare leaders believe fundamental improvement and innovation is required. We identified three features common to those that succeed:

  1. Long-term vision with sense of urgency - Although transformation requires a long- term vision and commitment, the immense challenges facing the healthcare sector also call for immediate action. Creating urgency does not mean abandoning principles in favour of short-lived solutions; but it does mean leaders should instil their strategies with a sense of pace.
  2. Mastering tools that give them the edge - Information is power, but only when it is the right information. Healthcare’s love affair with data is rooted in a centuries-old tradition of rigorous medical testing and research, plus the need to keep detailed patient records. In recent times, the use of information has extended to the boardroom, as leaders seek to carve out new models of care. Selecting the right data, in the right form, has become a critical task.
  3. Curiosity and enthusiasm for innovation - The best examples of healthcare transformation involve organisations that constantly seek to improve, by questioning and critiquing existing practices. Successful organisations often learn from mistakes: not just their own mistakes, but those of other organisations too – particularly in stories of organisational decline.

In the search for a future vision of healthcare, it is all too easy to park the immediate problems of financial constraints and unsatisfied patients. However, a failure to address today’s pressing needs could threaten the very survival of many institutions.

“Over- whelmingly healthcare leaders believe fundamental improvement and innovation is required”

With deep industry experience, KPMG member firms are uniquely positioned to provide guidance and support to clients charged with delivering this vision, helping them successfully navigate this rapidly changing environment and transform the way that healthcare is provided.

KPMG’s Global Healthcare team has more than 4,500 dedicated professionals with skills in strategy development, cost optimisation, financial management, clinical performance improvement, health IT, digital innovation and transformation, market development, tax planning, mergers and acquisitions, commercialisation and organisational development – making it one of the largest, best equipped and most experienced healthcare advisory teams.

I have dedicated my entire professional life to leading healthcare organisations at hospital, regional, national and global levels, and am constantly motivated by the pursuit of excellent healthcare, something I am proud to share with our whole global network. Through supporting clients internationally, from governments through to individual provider organisations, KPMG is making a significant impact to the delivery of healthcare around the world. It would be our privilege to serve you, and we look forward to hearing how we can help.


E: mark.britnell@kpmg.co.uk | T: +44 207 6942014

KMPG Healthcare Review

KPMG’s Healthcare Review is an online space for leaders who want to think about the common challenges shaping the present and future of healthcare. Updated monthly by our Global Healthcare practice, the content draws on KPMG’s extensive international health network across 45 countries to provide a truly global picture. Mixing topical analysis, commentary, and interviews, Healthcare Review covers the key themes and trends relevant to payers, providers, and patients alike.


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