Now that 2020 has come to a close, many are taking time to reflect on the lessons learned from the challenging past year to create a new perspective going into the future.
The healthcare industry is no different, and several leaders in the space sat down this week at an Accelerate Health virtual panel to discuss what the pandemic taught them, how they’re adjusting for the road ahead and ways to make the changes stick.
“This pandemic really has been a turning point for all of us in healthcare,” Rasu Shrestha, the executive vice president and chief strategy officer at Atrium Health, said during the New Year’s Resolutions: Shaping the Next Decade in Healthcare panel. “It’s really given us a level of intentionality never before seen in the modern history of our industry.”
If there’s one thing that this past year taught the world, it’s that when it needed to, the healthcare industry could adapt, and adapt quickly.
“If I take the words of Plato, who says that ‘necessity is the mother of invention,’ I think in no other time is this so true of the kind of inventions, and disruptions, and innovations that we have done both in our personal lives and professional lives, as well as in the healthcare community,” said Reenita Das, a partner and the senior vice president of transformational health at Frost and Sullivan, during the panel.
Among the changes that Das hopes to see more of going forward is a focus on the consumer.
“One of the things that we have learned with this pandemic is that we are people at the end of the day, and holistic care is going to become more and more important to us as we move forward,” she said.
A significant part of consumer-first holistic healthcare is implementing a seamless digital framework that allows people to manage their own care, according to Das. With that, there also needs to be an industry-wide improvement of cybersecurity.
“I mean with everything going on with digital, it’s great but still the number of hacks and incidents we had this past year has been tremendous,” Das said.
Additionally, a well-rounded digital framework requires interoperability from system to system, according to Paul Apen, the chief business and operations officer at E Ink Corporation. This could even reduce caregiver burden by improving the communication and information workflow.
“If we can tie these different kinds of systems and solutions together more efficiently for those that have really the responsibility of caregiving for the consumers that we’re talking about, I think that’d be a wonderful contribution to healthcare in 2021,” Apen said.
Outside of digitization, a focus of 2020 that Anupam Vats, the senior director of customer experience strategy and portfolio management at GuideWell, wants to see continue into the future is the emphasis on mental health.
The pandemic showed employers that their staff’s mental health needs to be a priority moving forward, Vats said.
Alongside all of these resolutions is the desire to make healthcare more equitable, according to Das.
Specifically, as it relates to the COVID-19 vaccine, she pointed out that five countries have bought up 50% of the vaccine supply when they only make up 20% of the world’s population.
“So what’s really happening for 80% of the population?” Das said. “That’s why my wish is that we can make medicines more equitable and vaccine distribution more equitable.”
CREATING LASTING CHANGE
Talking about making improvements is one thing, but actually implementing them and making them withstand time is an entirely different challenge.
First and foremost, to make these resolutions stick, they need to be created within an ecosystem that supports these changes, according to Apen.
For many of these goals, that means there will need to be a shift in the collective mindset that change is not a threat, Das said.
As a radiologist, Shrestha has experience changing his perspective on embracing technology, specifically for artificial intelligence.
“There’s often a question of ‘will radiologists get replaced by AI?’” he said. “And what we always say is that, ‘Well, radiologists who don’t embrace AI will get replaced by radiologists who do.’”
None of these goals will be possible, however, if it’s not a group effort, according to Vats.
“I would like to think that together, in a collaborative manner, we’ll get to a better place,” he said. “But that has to be intentional. There will have to be strong signals from the top management … to make it happen.”