Assessing acceleration in the healthcare mindshift 

With many factors forcing change, health system chiefs are overhauling traditional paradigms to achieve a successful future for care delivery.

This article is part of the November 2023 COVERstory.

Healthcare – long derided as conservative and resistant to change – is now looking to quickly adapt to a rapidly changing world, reinventing itself to meet new preferences of consumers, adopt transformative technologies and adapt to a topsy turvy economic environment. 

Top executives in provider organizations and technology innovators are casting new strategic visions to better address this changing environment. They point to the rapid adaptation forced by the COVID-19 pandemic as both evidence of the industry’s ability to change and indications of what the new face of healthcare must become. 

This shift in mindset was identified by many CEOs interviewed by Health Data Management in its examination of the current landscape of healthcare as viewed by top executives at health systems and technology and service providers. 

Transformation in healthcare 

The shift to value-based care is driving a new perception of what healthcare must become in the coming years, says Victoria Lee, MD, CEO and president of Fraser Health Authority in British Columbia, Canada. 

“We're at a very important point, in terms of sustainability, for the transformation of our health system,” she says. Right now, our health system is much more a sickness space, for the future of healthcare, we need to be wellness based. Currently, it's quite reactive, but we need to move into a much more proactive place.” 

Transformation is essential, particularly with the emergence of digital capabilities that can enable the industry to meet current and future needs, she says. “How do we get to that future health system much quicker? I see digital transformation as a key and a powerful catalyst for us to get to that future-based system that is much more wellness-based, proactive, connected, seamless, human-centered and able to design for precision and add value.” 

Rapid evolution requires the recognition that data can drive intelligent transformation and better treatment decisions by all participants, she contends. “Data is our new currency. Health is rich in our currency, but we're not fully utilizing our currency right now, the way they're disconnected and siloed. I think the biggest hindrance to our digitization as a powerful catalyst right now is that we are still driving our systems on paper and fax. We need to digitize our system for us to be really able to leapfrog and transform.” 

Data informs and empowers both clinicians and patients, Lee contends, a viewpoint echoed by Michelle O’Connor, president and CEO of MEDITECH. In particular, O’Connor sees patients as a driving force in transforming healthcare and shifting existing mindsets on how delivery systems should function. 

“We can find hope with patients pushing all of us – the clinicians, the technology vendors and everything else,” she notes. “Patients have embraced the need for information, the need for better access to healthcare, the fact that you can do a virtual visit to see a doctor quickly. Patients are going to push us, and I think now that technology is out there, we will all continue to move fast and make it easier for everybody.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic and the growing pressure for the industry to increase the pace of change, both to benefit patients, clinicians and healthcare workers, says B.J. Schaknowski, CEO of technology provider Symplr. 

“To the point of the pandemic, we've been given a catalyst for change,” he explains. “Healthcare systems and healthcare administrators woke up three years ago and (realized) we can't keep doing things this way; this is economically unsustainable, and this is unsustainable from what we're putting our workforce through. And so there is a moment of inflection where they're going; we have to do something different.” 

That view is mixed with an optimistic assessment from Adam Gale, CEO of KLAS Research. “Since COVID, there's actually a lot better care – for some of these people, virtual care tools that they can have on their phone actually does something meaningful,” he says. “That's something that has kind of been on the fringes of healthcare for a long time. But it feels like we're making real progress, maybe by accident (with) forced behavior changes through COVID. But there are so many things that actually are changing the lives of caregivers and the lives of patients.” 

The mindshift in providing care 

Healthcare organizations – long singularly focused on the care they provided within the walls of healthcare facilities – are now gaining new appreciation for extending care services in the communities they serve. 

That outward focus gives organizations new ways to manage increased patient volume and better meet community needs, says William Kenley, CEO of AnMed Health, a health system serving upstate South Carolina and northeast Georgia. 

New strategies enable AnMed “to take care of (rising) volume without building more bricks-and-mortar (facilities and by) gaining more efficiency,” he says. For example, the system is breaking ground for a “micro campus” in Piedmont, S.C., which will feature a physician office, rehab lab, and some other primary care offices and specialty offices. 

Improving organizations’ outward focus is crucial in building partnerships with local communities and organizations to tackle issues such as healthcare access, improved outcomes, healthcare equity and workforce shortages, says David Cole, MD, president of the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).  

Expanding visions in this way is enabling MUSC to designate resources to improve care access in rural areas and expand its offerings of virtual services.  

“We need to reconsider how we deliver care,” Cole contends. “Longitudinally, we're going to be evolving – through and with technology – (to provide) more care at home. We're going to transition to where we're going to hopefully be able to deliver high-quality, high-fidelity, high-follow-up quality care at home.” 

Benefits within the walls 

As healthcare organizations aim to transform themselves to face current challenges, they are also taking a look internally, to more closely examine their own cultures and how they meet the needs of staff, clinicians and support personnel – all vitally important particularly in light of staffing shortages that the industry is trying to manage. 

AnMed’s Kenley notes that “one of the opportunities that we have been working on is culture building. The area that we really wanted to work on was bringing more precision to what our purpose is, as an organization, and then helping every team member be able to connect their personal purpose into that purpose of the organization.” 

The effort has resulted in more training for existing staff as well as individuals who join it, he says. “We have trained about 60 percent of our team and everybody we onboard – we bring it to our tagline of, ‘Better starts here.’ And really, it's tools to help everyone be more productive as a team and also be more productive individually.” 

The effort has resulted in higher employee engagement, and retention and satisfaction rates also have been improving, Kenley notes.  

This new mindset of redefining roles and staff engagement is an emerging trend throughout the industry, says Helen Waters, chief operating officer at MEDITECH. “The best ideas come from the people who are closest to where the challenges are and where they see opportunity,” she says, explaining her company’s approach to internal efforts as well as customers.  

“There is nothing more important to us than making a very strong statement to the staff that your ideas matter. We want to hear directly from people who are close to where a lot of the action takes place every day. And that action is what drives the meaningful bonds that we have built over the years with (our) customer base,” she adds. “We need a motivated, engaged and very highly valued workforce. And that's what we're striving for with these initiatives.” 

Support for clinicians and staff will be increasingly crucial, MUSC’s Cole says. “We need to reconsider our models of care and how we deliver care differently,” he says. “Somewhere, there's an intersection called AI; somewhere, there's an intersection called telehealth, something that can give better use and more focused ability to deliver care.” 

Virtual care and nursing are new paradigms that also will impact organizations’ internal resources and require a mindshift in thinking, Cole adds. Finding ways to use technology to reduce burden “probably gets you higher job satisfaction, probably get higher retention and actually enables the workforce (to focus on) what they're trained for.” 

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