The United States healthcare system has never been perfect; some would say far from it. The COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly shined a harsh light on the healthcare industry's inadequacies.
Rather than repeat the mistakes of years' past, influential players in healthcare can take this opportunity to learn from the gaps. Healthcare administrators have unique perspectives and can lend their expertise when promoting and implementing systemic changes.
From telehealth to clinical trials, there are a number of areas ripe for improvement.
Advancing Telehealth Beyond a "Triage" State
Telehealth was not a new concept to come out of the pandemic. Telehealth services were used prior to COVID-19 but accelerated into near-ubiquity once hospitals and other healthcare facilities realized how severe the novel virus was.
Many experts now argue that telehealth should not be viewed as a band-aid approach. In fact, they believe there are both patient and provider benefits to virtual care interactions. A few include:
- Greater access to care for those in remote/rural areas or where transportation is scarce
- Reduced time spent in the hospital for those who suffer from chronic illnesses
- Better adherence to care protocols and appointments
- Improved communication between providers and patients
As in-person care resumes, health administrators can play an essential role in guiding and prioritizing telehealth strategies.
Diversifying the Supply Chain
One grim realization brought to light by the pandemic was limited access to critical supplies, medications and medical equipment. The supply chain faced disruption, due to an overreliance on overseas manufacturers and distributors. In fact, 90% of all face masks used during the pandemic were (and are) produced in China.
While there's no one solution to this issue, HealthAffairs.org contributor Susan DeVore offers a several suggestions, such as:
- Optimize tech solutions to better track product availability, supply chain performance and supply sources
- Provide tax incentives or low-cost loans to help American manufacturers be more competitive in the market
- Incentivize health systems and healthcare providers to purchase domestically
- Diversify American-available supply, including raw materials, pharmaceutical ingredients and finished drugs
Again, hospital administrators have a critical voice in helping to evolve supply chain processes and advance responsiveness.
Taking a Different Perspective on Technology
Providers emphasize technological advancements, like robotics in surgery, genetics or targeted cancer therapy. Yet, some of the tech-based systems used within healthcare lag. For example, it wasn't that long ago that patient health records were pen-to-paper and stored in a file cabinet.
PwC's Health Research Institute (HRI) asserts that healthcare forecasting is in desperate need of an overhaul. The organization's recent report states:
"Better sightlines can help health companies prepare for shifts in the insurance market, the economy, utilization, consumer behavior, and future waves of infectious disease. Healthcare organizations can no longer review the past 30 days of claims or historical behavioral trends to determine the next steps.
Instead, they need real-time insights to create the healthcare industry's own forecasting system to alert healthcare leaders to the shifting fronts that may have a major impact on their business."
This evolution involves employing dynamic strategic planning, advanced analytics and predictive modeling, as well as population-wide simulations.
HRI continues the "tech" conversation regarding the clinician experience: "Digital technology, if made right, could be the antidote to countless pain points that physicians encounter every day, leading to more efficient and satisfied doctors, happier patients, and more patient referrals."
Which hospital administrator wouldn't want that outcome?
Creating More Inclusive Clinical Trials
Historically, clinical trials have heavily relied on seeing and treating patients in hospital or clinic settings. But, spurred by the pandemic, pharmaceutical and life sciences companies had to pivot. They realized that virtual opportunities exist — and can transform the way they conduct trials.
One key benefit is serving more diverse populations, such as those impacted by various social determinants of health. A virtual approach decreases the burden on trial participants to travel to appointments (often hundreds of miles), ultimately making participation more attractive.
Elevate Your Role as a Hospital Administrator
One challenge healthcare administrators encounter when attempting to innovate is understanding the landscape from both a healthcare perspective and a business one. Their job is to ensure patients receive top-level care, but they're also running a company.
With a more robust foundation, such as earning a Master of Science in Health Administration (MHA), administrators can not only withstand unexpected disruptions (like the pandemic) — but also lead the charge in effecting system-wide change.
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