How Should Healthcare Management Evolve Post-Pandemic?
Even before the COVID-19, healthcare providers faced immense challenges. But between the continuing threat of the pandemic, the backlog of patients on waiting lists and rising levels of new illnesses (including mental health concerns), the pressures they face today are virtually unprecedented.
Many geographical areas are still struggling with a lack of clinical supply. Others, when able to keep up with demand, lack the flexibility within their systems to adapt to changing circumstances and changing patient and staffing needs.
To rise to the challenge, healthcare management will have to continue to evolve - introducing new technologies, restructuring insufficient systems and rethinking its approach to staffing. Here are four ways we can expect healthcare management to change in the coming months and years:
More connected health and care services
Arguably the centrepiece of the current set of healthcare reforms is the government’s plan to bring Health and Care services closer together, removing unnecessary bureaucracy and empowering local governments. The aim is to ‘embed lessons from the pandemic and promote collaboration for better outcomes.
It is important to note that this won’t happen overnight. We will have to wait to see exactly how the challenges play out in specific locales – as we recognise that removing barriers to collaboration do not inherently lead to its desired end. There is however evidence that it could produce great results, such as the First Response Service of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, which has improved mental health outcomes and reduced A&E admissions.
Primary Care Networks (PCNs) are an important part of this. Concerns over the sustainability of these networks have been raised before the pandemic, with 49% of clinical directors calling their workload unmanageable and the project’s funding being considered inadequate by some. And while the pressures of COVID-19 have strengthened some networks, they have made networks in some areas more fragile, leading them to revert to previous forms of collaboration.
Ultimately, the challenge will be ensuring the networks are run in a fair and agile manner. Decision making should be inclusive and flexible enough to allow fair representation of all PCNs, and this requires new systems that will avoid more developed PCNs dominating the process.
Increase workforce visibility
In order to create the kind of staffing flexibility they need, healthcare managers need far greater visibility over their workforce than they are currently capable of. Existing systems are often incapable of scaling easily, and staffing is not always centralised - meaning information silos and communication problems are inevitable.
Enhanced visibility using a centralised platform inevitably leads to more efficient management and greater control - especially when providers are using a wider network of flexible or temporary staff. It will also improve the level of communication staff receive, ultimately improving the employee experience greatly.
In a sector that has shortages of talent, it remains increasingly important to ensure that the right staff are utilised, available, and engaged with. This engagement lends to improved relationships and improved staffing retention and staffing attraction
Address changing patient needs
Patients’ preferences have changed during the pandemic. The move towards telehealth has been more widely adopted, enabling patients to access care without the logistics of getting to and from hospitals; it also offers the potential for GPs to increase the efficiency of their service. However, having the right staffing levels to meet the current levels of demand for phone and video consultations poses challenges to healthcare management.
Navigating staffing for both in-person and telephone and video consultation requires a greater level of agility; it also requires stronger internal communication, to ensure the best possible clinician is on hand for each individual patient.
Rather than overlooking changing patient preferences - and giving up on promising new models of care - healthcare management should focus on adapting their approach to meet patients’ needs and building systems that will allow them to embed these new models of service delivery.
Become more data-driven
Healthcare has been slow relative to other sectors in its adoption of data-driven approaches. In part this is because so much healthcare data is highly sensitive, but the sluggish introduction of technology to the sector has also played a significant role.
As we emerge from the pandemic, a wider appreciation for the power of data - and the importance of highly sophisticated, connected data systems - should be at the forefront of healthcare managers’ minds.
Over time, for example, healthcare managers should be able to consider high-quality data related to their staffing utilisation and needs - ultimately enabling them to use sophisticated analytics that produce extremely useful insights. These insights will allow them to make more effective decisions and increase the overall efficiency of their practise. Such data does not appear overnight, and management must have a clear plan as to how they are going to collect it – and what they are going to do with it.
The good news is that there are excellent cloud based systems that exist today. The apps can support and improve the challenges faced by healthcare organisations.
Conclusion: build for the long-term
While the pandemic has shaken healthcare systems the world over, it has also presented an exciting opportunity to reimagine how things are done - at both the most abstract and the most granular levels.
This will require healthcare management to find external partners that can help them build more sustainable, effective systems; it will also require a great deal of honest internal evaluations and some difficult decisions about what is and is not currently working.
More than anything, however, it will require a willingness for healthcare managers to make bold decisions. Because whatever changes are made should look to not just enable healthcare providers to cope with the current crisis - they must focus on larger systemic change that will ensure that our healthcare systems truly thrive in the long-term.
While the decisions related to workforce management become a key priority for organisations, it is important to note that cloud based apps can deploy quickly, and these systems already exist to support their challenges.
If you're looking to learn more about how you can help alleviate the staffing crisis at your place of work, get in touch.