by Karen Curtis

The pandemic has accelerated changes in healthcare delivery. Knowing where to focus will accelerate your business growth and send you on the right trajectory for success.

Disruption has been a hallmark of the healthcare environment over the past few years. Yet, never before have healthcare providers faced the perfect storm of economic, political, regulatory, and physical environment challenges – not to mention a pandemic of epic proportions that is taking not only a financial toll, but also a physical and psychological toll on clinicians and staff.

Looking ahead, providers will continue to experience significant strain due to COVID-19, with patient volume expected to remain well below baseline levels. The American Hospital Association (AHA) estimates total losses for the nation’s hospitals and health systems to be at least $323.1 billion in 2020, with hospitals and health systems reporting average declines of 19.5% in inpatient volume and 34.5% in outpatient volume relative to baseline levels as of June.

Despite these grim numbers, there is a new healthcare normal emerging from pandemic challenges, creating an opportunity to leverage learnings and continue to innovate. COVID challenges have led to innovative and more efficient and consumer-friendly ways of providing care, such as telehealth and remote patient monitoring.

As providers seek to adapt business models and revisit how patients access care while keeping staff engaged and motivated, it’s crucial to understand which areas you’ll need to focus to accelerate your business growth. Here’s where to begin.

Accelerate and optimize your business model

Traditional care delivery and business models are no longer relevant or sustainable in a post-COVID world. Shift care delivery to lower cost settings such as ambulatory sites, and leverage telehealth and digital tools that improve access and the patient experience. Accelerating your transition to value-based care and focusing on sustainable cost reduction are also keys to enabling your future.

Optimize your workforce experience and establish an equitable workplace

Clinician and staff burnout are at their highest levels, yet your clinicians and staff are at the center of patient experience and your brand. A redefined workplace experience requires new ways of engaging and supporting your workforce.  It is important to develop targeted, human-centered support strategies to meet the changing needs of your workforce, provide safe and flexible workplace options, and actively engage them in their work. As you consider a post-pandemic strategy for virtual care, consider how you will reimagine clinical workflows to optimize care for patients while increasing provider satisfaction. Let those workflows drive requirements for both your technology and brick and mortar investments.

Understand and address unmet and changing patient needs

Organizations need to find a balance between providing in-person care and digital delivery. Provide convenient and personalized access to care to meet the unique needs of your patients. For example, patient access does not just mean expanded hours and service locations. It means developing a robust digital strategy that includes options such as mobile apps, chats, video visits and telemedicine. Consumers are increasingly expecting to have all their health services needs met when they want, and where they want it, regardless of what physical or digital door they enter. Approach the patient experience by enabling creative thinking, driving collaboration across all experience layers, accelerating innovation with data and technology, and investing in the human side.

Strengthen your brand and market position

COVID-19 has accelerated the need for the healthcare community to work collaboratively, resulting in unique partnerships and traditional mergers and acquisitions that require cultural alignment and a strong integration to drive value. Invest in partnerships and/or acquire capabilities that position your brand as an essential and trusted partner in the health care ecosystem. Explore opportunities to expand core care delivery and non-core revenue generating services to better support your customer needs and achieve growth goals.

Position for agility in an uncertain regulatory and economic environment

Organizations need to be prepared to manage through the ups and downs of economic and pandemic changes. Creating a structured and agile approach to manage operational and financial impacts is critical to long-term sustainability. Strengthen operations to execute complex and regulated processes with customized playbooks to maximize organizational effectiveness and minimize regulatory and reputational risk.

The Bottom Line

Now is the time to be bold and forward thinking. The pandemic has accelerated much-needed change in the industry, and there is no going back to traditional healthcare delivery. Embracing disruption with a proactive approach to business transformation will help your organization meet and excel from the challenges to come.