When the vaccine was available for my 83-year-old mother-in-law, she told us she was waiting for a call from her doctor’s office to schedule an appointment. I asked, “Did you check your email?”
“No, why would they email me?” But of course, they had, through the patient portal.
A few weeks later, she said, “Do you know, my doctor talks to me all the time on email?”
“Yes. I know.”
Months later, she needed to go in for a visit and kept playing phone tag with the office. And then she said something over lunch that perfectly encapsulated the level and speed of change we’re experiencing in healthcare right now: “It would be a lot more convenient if they would just email me.”
I’ve heard experts say that trying to get older people to use technology in healthcare is impossible. That might have been true once, pre-pandemic. Now, like so many things we used to believe were fundamental truths, it’s a fallacy. My least favorite phrase of 2020 or 2021 is “new normal”—followed closely by “pivot.” Just saying either gives me the shivers. That’s what we’re facing, though—the new world order of healthcare. We’ve never been where we are right now. There are few best practices to guide us. When I talk with the leaders of large medical groups and smaller independent practices across the country, their questions are the same: How do we move forward? What is next year going to look like?
This week, I spoke at our annual Medical Practice Excellence: Leaders conference on the state of the industry, and I shared this idea: If you happen to be in a leadership position during this time of dramatic transition, you get to define what that new world looks like.
Healthcare leaders have an unprecedented opportunity to shape the future right now.
If that feels like just one more item on your overwhelming to-do list, after a year of learning how to be a supply chain guru, an expert recruiter, a therapist, an investment banker, and a public policy wonk (apologies to MGMA’s government affairs team), I understand. We’re all exhausted right now. We’ve been in survival mode for a long time, and that can make it hard to focus on the future. So, take a moment. Catch your breath. Reflect. Reflect on your patients and providers. Reflect on your operations. Reflect on how far you’ve come.
And then recognize this: All of your growth and new expertise have prepared you perfectly for the challenges in front of you.
You’re up to the challenge of becoming an employer of choice.
In a recent Stat Poll, 73% of practices said that staffing was the greatest concern heading into 2022. At the same time, the “why” of our work has never been more relevant, especially to those outside of healthcare. We have an opportunity to connect with people’s search for purpose and opportunity in our recruiting and our culture building. Annette Small of Midwest Aortic and Vascular Institute tackled the challenge by helping to develop a fellowship program to attract top talent.
You’re up to the challenge of meeting dramatically different patient expectations.
The trend of patients as educated consumers is no longer a trend. It’s a given. It’s done. We’re all taking charge of decisions about what, where, and how. In-home care, better integrated care, more information and education, greater price transparency are all in play. At the same time, medical practices are serving diverse populations, and expectations are not one size fits all or static. Moishe Singer of Englewood Health Physicians Network chooses to meet the challenge by empowering patients. For instance, he helped his medical group adopt a host of technologies that give patients more access and control.
You’re up to the challenge of shifting to digitally integrated healthcare.
Remember the days when we couldn’t get patients to use the patient portal to see test results? Now, they expect online scheduling, telehealth, wearables, and more. At the same time, we have so many new models of digitally integrated care to choose from. We can use the technology to deepen our relationships and connection with patients and stem the tide of transactional health interactions. We just have to consider the patient experience along the way. Pulmonary and Sleep Associates relied on Rebeccah Schreck to shift a vulnerable population to telehealth visits. Nothing slipped through the cracks, patients felt well cared for, and the group transitioned to a new model.
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Annette, Moishe, and Rebeccah were nominated for our Extraordinary Leaders Recognition program because they are helping their practices shape a better future. We all have an opportunity to do the same. We just can’t let ourselves be held back by fallacies. We can’t rely on leadership by dogma. There are no sacred cows anymore.
The great writer and activist Alice Walker once said, “The most common way people give up their power is by believing they don’t have any.” In this time of transition, we have the power to create the best future for our practices and our industry. We just have to believe in our own ability and power to do so.