Healthcare leaders should embrace the COVID-19 world as the new normal and stop going for temporary stop gap measures and being stymied by the reduction in revenue. COVID will stay with us at least for another 12 months, if not 18 to 24. More importantly, COVID already has and will continue to have long-lasting changes on the way we work, the way we communicate, and the way we receive healthcare.
Silicon Valley has been sitting on mountains of cash for years and the venture capital and private equity monies are now flowing into digital health innovation like never before. Already, $50 Billion has been invested in digital health innovation over the past 10 years and now the predictions are projecting an investment of about $150 Billion in just five years. The implications for health systems and physician practices are that capital is going to flow into innovative products and services that the modern healthcare customer wants. This new set of healthcare tools will once and for all topple the pedestal-approach to patient care that healthcare has long practiced. The threat is no longer just Dr. Google (which was more of an annoyance). The threat now is that "your physician will Zoom you now"—and it can be any physician, anywhere.
During the early stages of a crisis, Winston Churchill was often quoted: "Don't let a good crisis go to waste", so here are my five most important recommendations for forward-thinking leaders who are committed to ensure not only the survival of their organization, but to set them up to thrive in this post-COVID, post-distancing, virtual work world.
- You can't manage what you don't measure: Establish metrics and key performance indicators for all of your services, but especially for virtual care. This is a core business practice that many healthcare organizations have long neglected, measuring mostly only the reimbursement. But a balanced dashboard of key indicators of success are critical during these and future frantic times to keep your finger on the pulse.
- Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets: Once you know your actual results and have established your goals, you can go about changing your systems to get better outcomes. This involves workflows, policies, training, support, technology, marketing, etc.
- Embrace the hybrid care model: The future of healthcare delivery is the delivery of care "at a distance" to patients when they need it, where they want it. The progress is inevitable and the Coronavirus just accelerated telehealth adoption from eight years to eight weeks.
- Accelerate innovation adoption: The onslaught of slick solutions and services for the modern healthcare consumer (formerly known as "patients") will be endless. It already started before COVID—augmented intelligence (AI), internet of things (IOT), big data, etc., just to name a few of the buzzwords. For healthcare organizations to thrive in the next 10 years, they must learn to adopt innovation quickly—in a matter of weeks not years. This requires a massive culture shift and with it relentless engagement and selling by leaders. But the alternative leads to atrophy and demise.
- Grow your digital health maturity: Many organizations have begrudgingly started to use digital health in response to demands and expectations. The best organizations, however, leverage digital health solutions to move from "supported" to "strategic" or even "transformative"—where digital health is used to reinvent the organization from the ground up.
A crisis like COVID needs to be managed like an untamed horse. A tsunami may come, wreak havoc, then leave—like 9/11 did. COVID is different. It's a prolonged crisis, and it requires a different mindset. It will be a watershed moment for many organizations and for many people. Physicians are leaving the profession in droves. Physician practices are gobbled up by regional hospitals for half their pre-COVID valuation.
Technology is not a panacea, but it most certainly will not go away. Not with technology having successfully damped the blow of COVID (the internet, home delivery, video conferencing, etc.).
All five recommendations above are about the same thing: As a leader, use the opportunity to mobilize your team to change the way you practice medicine. Because if you don't, others will.
For more suggestions on making telehealth an effective solution for your organization, download this complete guide to telehealth.