But the need to think strategically doesn’t stop with hospital administrators.
“I think the individual doctors, whether or not they’re getting into administration, need to think about more than just their technical skills,” he says. “They’re going to have to start thinking about the broader business, which is something that they haven’t really been pushed to do before. If they want to continue to contribute to the organization, and understand how they fit in, they need to understand how they’re contributing to the economic vitality of the organization.”
Prior to pursuing his Ph.D. in strategy at Indiana University, Saxton was a consultant for Fortune 500 firms. In that role, Saxton helped companies develop their corporate strategies for engaging in acquisitions and alliances that brought more focus to their business. Applying those strategic management tools is an area where Saxton believes hospital systems are playing catch-up with other industries.
“I think right now when hospitals think about differentiation, they think about advertising,” he says. “It’s ‘How do we get more ads on TV’? That is just one piece of marketing and marketing strategy. Every hospital system is chasing every arena that has potential for financial windfalls. They’re all chasing each other with limited dollars within their existing models—not necessarily thinking strategically.”
“As they move to Accountable Care, hospitals and care providers will have to embrace new engagement practices with patients, new technologies for care coordination, and new business models. All of this will require an open mindset to strategy and innovation from other industries.”
In addition to teaching and research in corporate strategy, Saxton has also been an active member of the Indianapolis venture community. In his role as an advisory board member for a local angel funding group which focuses on investments in the health care industry, Saxton knows there is a lot of interest in the medical community for starting new businesses or being part of new activity. He enjoys connecting the Business of Medicine Physician MBA students to ventures for opportunities to invest, advise, or even join founding teams. A number of alumni have used these connections to start their own ventures as well.
“Doctors are very entrepreneurial and very innovative,” says Saxton, a three-time winner of the MBA program’s “Best Professor” award. “But sometimes it’s difficult to have diffusion or adoption of those innovations on a broader scale. People think hospital systems are slow to change and are therefore not at all innovative. The reality is that the individuals within those systems are, in my experience, very innovative. It’s getting others to adopt those innovations and getting them to be more systematic that is the real challenge.”