As some nations declare an end to the COVID-19 pandemic and begin to retreat from their emergency policies and restrictions, it’s a reminder of the dramatic impact healthcare systems have weathered over the past two years. Yet in reality, the pandemic is not over for the healthcare sector, which must now figure out the best way forward.
Since March 2020, the entire healthcare landscape has shifted almost beyond recognition and left us with the impression that delivering healthcare services remotely, digitally, or without a human, is the best way to manage demand – it isn't, necessarily. The underlying principles of healthcare remain the same all over the world, which is providing high-quality, safe services to patients in a timely and easily accessible way that meets their clinical needs. Hospitals still have patients lined up at the front door, and they always will. No matter how much care we provide remotely, or how digital we become, the human element to healthcare delivery remains.
Now, after such a dramatic shift, healthcare systems must continue to figure out the pre-pandemic problem of how to balance digital health with their core mission of patient care and the post-pandemic issue of which pivots should remain part of the “new normal.”
Bridging the gap
Every healthcare system in the world faces the same challenges. The ways they respond to those challenges might be different, the clinical and social care needs of the patients in those areas might be different, there might be some nuance around chronic disease management or the national epidemiological profile, but the challenges are largely the same.
The Holy Grail remains providing equitable access to high-quality care at a time when people are getting older but not getting fitter and when chronic disease is more prevalent than ever. Healthcare has become more responsive in terms of its treatment and its management, but it has therefore also become more expensive. Healthcare is also incredibly personal and incredibly generic.
I’m the rare person who actually loves being in a hospital. I’m a health person at heart, but I’m also a health-provider person. And as the leader of Nordic’s recently launched EMEIA healthcare advisory team, I want to bridge the gap between what we do in the EHR and broader health technology space with how we fundamentally provide expert counsel to our healthcare system clients, who in some cases are just trying to keep the lights on. They're trying to retain their staff and make sure they've got enough capacity to manage the demand. They're trying to make sure that nothing falls through the gaps after two years of running mostly COVID-19 services.
Finding the balance
For the healthcare sector, digital transformation and investment in technology are certainly crucial to addressing these issues, but that transformation should not come at the expense of patient care. Getting this balance right is incredibly challenging for a variety of reasons. On average, healthcare organizations around the world waste 45% of their available resources, which could include people, equipment, real estate, or time.
My raison d'être is to work with clients to enable them to identify that 45%, unlock it, and then use it in a way which enables them to work at an optimal level. If they could get back that waste, or even a fraction of it, imagine what a healthcare system could do with it in terms of waiting lists, staffing issues, or services.
COVID-19 also inspired healthcare organizations to be extraordinarily nimble, extraordinarily responsive, and extraordinarily resilient. And much of that was just finding that additional 45% and using it differently. The concern is health systems will simply go back to the way they operated before – scheduling and managing patients and resources to fit the needs of the practitioners, rather than fitting the needs of the patients.
We must now think about how to ensure the best of what happened during the pandemic is learned, retained, and then infused into the way healthcare systems and healthcare organizations run in the future.
We have an opportunity to link our extraordinary amount of expertise in IT transformation and digital health with ensuring our clients can operate their facilities in the most clinically and financially effective way to enable patients to achieve high outcomes. This makes me optimistic for the future.