Navigating Health Care Operations: How to Adapt and Evolve in a Changed Environment
The COVID-19 pandemic has left the health care industry reeling. From staffing issues to disruptive innovation, many health systems are struggling to survive. But, one organization has expertly weathered the storm over the past two years, thanks in large part to its leadership and market position. During a Nashville Health Care Council Brass Tacks event, Board Member Bruce Moore, president, service line and operations integration at HCA Healthcare (HCA), briefed Council members on managing leadership challenges and what the future holds for the nation’s largest health care services provider.
Because of his diverse experience and crucial position within the company, Moore provided Council members with unique insights into the future of both the company and the health care industry.
Our department has a lot of matrixed responsibilities, but our overall goal is to connect the systems within HCA and bring the best ideas and solutions to our operators.
Staffing and Health Care Technology
When asked what keeps him up at night, Moore quickly identified staffing as an ongoing challenge for the health care industry. He anticipates that the workforce shortage will continue well into the future. According to Mercer’s “2021 External Healthcare Labor Market Analysis,” the health care labor market is expected to face shortages over the next five to 10 years. In fact, trends indicate that around 6.5 million individuals will leave their positions by 2026, with only 1.9 million individuals replacing them.
I’ve never seen anything like this in my years of health care operations. We’re recruiting 100,000 new employees right now, and there are various reasons for this – an aging workforce, burnout from the pandemic, more competition for resources. We’re getting creative about the ways we use new health care technology and partnerships to alleviate workforce pressures.
Telehealth has been an essential tool for addressing not only the pitfalls of COVID but clinician shortages. A report from McKinsey and Company shared that telehealth utilization is 38x higher than pre-pandemic. While utilization has stabilized since a spike in telehealth visits during April 2020, consumer and clinician attitudes toward telehealth have improved. Indeed, telehealth provides flexibility in scheduling, program support and quality metric tracking, among other benefits.
In addition to using telehealth to deploy clinicians more efficiently, artificial intelligence programs can reduce the backlog of new patients needing to be admitted. Data analytics map a patient’s journey from admission to discharge to post-acute care, making the experience more seamless. From scheduling to compliance to communication, there are numerous AI applications in development that will not only benefit the patient but also improve job burnout across the health care sector.
Focusing on the work environment and engagement is undeniably a significant factor in retaining talent and reducing the costs associated with turnover and labor shortages.
We also understand how the pandemic changed our team members’ lives in a significant way,” said Moore. “How do we create a sense of culture and belonging? Providing and reaffirming a sense of purpose for our employees will be essential as we move forward.
Partnering with Big Tech
While Big Tech has unsuccessfully tried to integrate into the health care world in the past, companies like Apple, Google and Amazon are still making major investments in this space. The impact of partnerships with these organizations could mean better communication with patients, logistical support, predictive analytics and more.
According to a report from CB Insights, there are five factors motivating tech activity in health care:
- Consumerization of health care
- An explosion of health data
- Demand for AI and automation
- Enterprise interest in smart devices
- Health care’s cost burden
HCA is in the beginning stages of partnerships with some of the biggest names in Big Tech. With Google, they are exploring opportunities to deeply analyze clinical data to support caregivers in decision making. There is also potential for the partnership to support health care operations by elevating electronic health records data in a way that can improve efficiencies in care.
Amazon has recently made investments in Nashville, bringing a logistics center to the health care hub.
With Amazon, their distribution capabilities will always be better than ours,” he said. “If there is a way to combine our health care knowledge with their technology expertise, I think there is a tremendous opportunity to collaborate and make a difference.
Health Care education and the future of work
According to Deloitte, organizations that prioritize learning are 92% more likely to innovate.
HCA is known for its culture of continuous learning and improvement and currently has 6,000 employees in its graduate medical education programs. Thanks to its significant size and scale, the company can quickly examine clinical trends across its 45 markets and establish best-in-class procedures throughout the company.
We are able to keep up and deploy care innovations through our facilities because we have the ability to examine the data and understand which investments will really pay off as far as patient outcomes.
The work setting for clinicians is also evolving in some instances. HCA uses telehealth as a resource for clinicians, giving them the ability to consult across the company on complex cases. Virtual care also opens more opportunities for home care and rehabilitation in the home, which is becoming more popular with the aging population.
“Disruption Creates Opportunity”
The pandemic created tremendous strain on the health care system, but it also accelerated innovation in areas such as telehealth, health care operations and partnerships. As for the future, Moore is optimistic that health care is on the right track.
The great thing about Nashville is the creative, entrepreneurial spirit that surrounds us. It’s unbelievable how creative people can be, and the past year and a half has given us the opportunity to dream about what the future could hold and how to make it happen.
This virtual event is an installment of the Council’s “Health Care Brass Tacks” series, which invites Council board members and C-suite health care leaders to discuss their perspectives on the coronavirus pandemic and its overall impact on the health care industry. The Council’s “Health Care Brass Tacks” series is sponsored by Workday. For more information on upcoming programs, visit healthcarecouncil.com.
HCA is the largest health system in the United States. The company employs 285,000 people and sees 35 million patient encounters each year. Every day, there are between 400,000-500,000 people in HCA facilities, including patients and employees. In addition to running 185 hospitals in 45 markets, HCA also owns 2,100 outpatient facilities to support the communities that it serves.