I’m certain that everyone is experiencing the same challenges and opportunities that me, my teams, and my health system are experiencing in this ‘new normal’ in which we find ourselves. The virtual health/visit project that we had hoped to have in operation within six months was put into full production within a week. The challenge was placed in front of us and we created the opportunity for success. Is it perfect and as well-executed as the six-month rollout? No, but we couldn’t allow perfect to get in the way of caring for our patients and our providers at the same time.
Everywhere you look, you can see the strain that this pandemic is having — on the healthcare system in general, but more so, on resources, both human and otherwise. Our teams sprinted to create the opportunity for staff to work remotely without missing a beat. We got lucky; we had a replacement supply of hardware that had not been rolled out yet and a new VPN solution ready to deploy. We’ve had less luck ordering additional equipment, but it’s starting to come in, a little here and a little there.
It has been really amazing to see how the various teams and the people have worked together toward the common challenge; how people are willing to step up to provide a helping hand to fill a gap or go that extra mile. We’re all focused on the goal of creating an environment where we can provide the level of care and compassion that our patients need and deserve; this is one of the primary reasons why I love what I do and with whom I’m allow to do it. I’ve always said that people choose to enter the healthcare field, any part of it, not because it’s a job, but because it a calling. It’s not what we do, but who we are.
Are We Looking at a New Normal?
I hope and pray this crisis will be over soon; however, I don’t believe that we, as an industry will come out the other side the same. We’re learning new methods of providing care that may be more (if not as) effective, and hopefully less expensive, than what we knew as appropriate care processes. We’ve learning to leverage technology to do many of our jobs from our homes as well as in the office. We’re leaning new manners of teamwork and partnership that will allow us to create even new opportunities of safer methods of providing care.
One question that I keep asking myself: is the pandemic the catalyst that will cause healthcare to bridge the massive process gap between pay-for-performance and pay-for-quality/health? We’re definitely learning more about what it takes to keep each other and ourselves healthy. And we’re looking how to leverage technology to provide a level of care in whatever location we might find ourselves. Borders are being blurred between the old, tried-and-true, and the possible. Will this crisis be the shove that we need to step through the door of patient/consumer directed healthcare?
I think the older generation, my generation, is quickly learning how to become comfortable with the technology that allows them to interact with their care team — even if that care team isn’t in the same room or city. Is it perfect? No, but we can’t let perfect, or tradition, get in the way of the potential for providing high quality health care to those we have the pleasure of serving.
In talking to many friends around the country, I have some major concerns about the smaller community hospitals who have stayed independent for a variety of reasons. The current crisis has caused many of these organizations to postpone many or most of the services and procedures where their margins are earned; those margins are already very thin. I also learned that many have furloughed staff due to certain departments being closed; one community hospital furloughed one quarter of its workforce. This will have an impact of the community’s economy that will last long after the pandemic crisis is over.
I’m reminded that where I live, we have not seen the apex of the curve yet. I’m hoping that the actions we’ve all taken are truly flattening that curve. Please stay and work from home, if you can. Please think of and pray for those that are on the front lines caring for our patients, and those that are in the background supporting their efforts.
This piece was originally published on Chuck Christian’s blog, The Irreverent CIO. Christian, who now serves as chief technology officer role at Franciscan Health, has 30 years of experience in healthcare IT, both as a hospital CIO and as VP of Technology & Engagement with the Indiana Health Information Exchange.