The new healthcare workforce: Resilient for the future
July 14, 2021
When COVID-19 struck, healthcare organizations had to quickly pivot to offer safe and secure services virtually. The industry adapted fast—but now what? There is perhaps a false sense that the dust has settled. The reality is that some trends that were accelerated because of the pandemic will loom. People will continue to work from home, want virtual care options and expect care experiences to keep pace with the latest experiences they receive from outside of healthcare.
As healthcare organizations stabilize and adjust to new ways of delivering and financing care, they are rethinking how they innovate, engage the workforce, engage external partners and deliver value closer to, and in, the home.
Empower do it yourself innovation in your enterprise
New tools and technologies emerged—from platforms to manage the surge in virtual health, to robots to sanitise hospital rooms. Nearly overnight, companies repurposed chatbots into COVID-19 symptom checkers and turned remote monitoring devices into remote monitoring for the virus.1 Governments and health plans quickly changed policies to enable and pay for care at a distance.
Doctors and nurses began to take innovation into their own hands, using social media platforms to help people. For instance, mental health activist Zachery Dereniowski, under the handle MDMotivator, shares bite-sized, easy-to-understand information on anxiety, isolation, depression and hyper-consciousness on TikTok and Instagram.2
These platforms serve as powerful launchpads for innovation. Thinking even bigger, healthcare organizations might consider designing tools and platforms that create an open system for developers to use the APIs as they create their own applications. HumanAPI allows for connectivity to clinical and device data. Such companies that design open platforms drive greater co-creation, platform stickiness and they have greater opportunities to partner with others.
Not every healthcare organization is equipped to relentlessly pursue innovation. However, all can be open to collaboration with external developers and adopt a spirit of trying new approaches—testing and learning and being willing to fail. Organizations can also look to ecosystem partners to join forces on designing and developing innovations that improve health consumer and clinician experiences and solve healthcare challenges.
Rethink the employee experience
The pandemic dramatically changed the nature of work—and these changes are everlasting. Traditional care teams will look different as clinicians may be virtual, performing in-home visits or conducting traditional inpatient rounds, requiring technology and new processes to collaborate and coordinate effectively.
From an administrative perspective, payer and provider back-office and administrative functions will increasingly be candidates for remote work. During the pandemic, functions such as call center, HR, IT, compliance and medical management were all pushed to remote and may stay that way.
Healthcare organizations must rethink everything from work hours to workspaces to new teaming opportunities. They must also consider how the employee experience should be reimagined. Healthcare workers have choices, so leaders must evaluate what the employee value propositions should be. Payers and providers might consider flexible schedules, remote work options and reskilling opportunities for the future.
Though it’s too early to know what the new workplace will look like, there are opportunities for employers to innovate in four main areas: technology, culture, talent and control. For instance, when it comes to technology, organizations need technology to enable scalability, flexing up and down based on virtual patient visit demand. Big tech players are collaborating with payers to offer cloud-based solutions that enable such scale. Organizations will need to develop new ways to maintain a strong culture when teams are physically apart. In addition, the clinical workforce will continue to face burnout and even greater expectations. This should give rise to new initiatives for measuring and mitigating burnout.
Move beyond the last mile to care in the last few feet
We have all heard the term “pressure test” to describe what the healthcare industry has endured over the past year. With the CMS acute hospital at home program passing, more payers and providers have announced care models centered around the home, often making the home the primary or default setting of care.
This year’s pressure test also revealed the limitations of digital and physical spaces. Healthcare organizations quickly learned the speed of supply chains and the capacity of networks and platforms. These challenges shined a light on the need to be able to scale up or scale down capabilities.
Healthcare organizations should rethink their physical assets and refocus on what people need in the last few feet before service. Geisinger is improving healthcare at home experiences by partnering with Tomorrow Health and its digital marketplace to deliver medical supplies and equipment directly into the patients’ homes.3Uber is providing rideshare through the Cerner EHR platform to help patients get to appointments and they are also working with NimbleRX for in-home pharmacy delivery.4 It’s time to rethink the blend of physical and digital care experiences. What belongs in digital and what belongs in the physical realm? How do new settings like virtual, home, retail and community fit into care and financing business models?
Ready for resilience
Now, as we rebuild and normalize, it’s time for providers to think about how to adapt new approaches that satisfy healthcare consumer needs as they evolve in real time. Here’s how:
Support DIY innovation: Innovation is a long game and healthcare organizations need to commit to it. Whether it’s co-creating with ecosystem partners and patients, or offering APIs for developers, organizations have the opportunity to design a platform that strengthens new care and business models.
Create “sweet” teams: Design your technology-plus-culture solution for flexible working and resilience. Organizations need to design the right tech stack that can serve patients who want to receive care on their terms, independent of location and accommodate staff who will be working in a more remote and distributed model. Actively monitoring for burnout and ensuring front and back office connectivity will also be key.
Build liquid infrastructure: Think of your supply chain and physical assets as growth—not efficiency—plays. Healthcare organizations need to design new workflows that blend physical and digital and find new ways to satisfy patients. From a virtual visit with a PCP, to receiving a well-packaged prescription to the doorstep, organizations have new opportunities to earn patient loyalty.
If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it is to be ready for anything. Is your organization ready for a resilient future?