Building the Health Care System We Need

By The SHSMD Team posted 01-12-2021 12:29 PM


As part of the AHA/SHSMD 2020 Navigating a New Reality conference, participants in the panel “Using the Road to Recovery to Build the Health Care System We Need” discussed how to learn from COVID-19 and apply the lessons learned.

Panelists included:

  • Tina Freese Decker, president and CEO, Spectrum Health, Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • Dr. Alan S. Kaplan, CEO, UW Health, Madison, Wis.
  • Julie Petersen, CEO, Kittitas Valley Healthcare, Ellensburg, Wash.
  • Ryan Gish (moderator), managing director of Kaufman Hall

Three Principles for Building the Health Care System We Need

Freese Decker pointed out three principles for all health care providers to consider:

  • Affordability: If the cost of health care is out of reach, excellent care cannot meet the mission of improve health.
  • Integration: An integrated model provides diverse expertise and enables organizations to collaboratively design products and services that reflect multiple perspectives.
  • Innovation: Innovation, backed by strong data and predictive analytics, will be especially critical coming out of COVID-19 as organizations think about redesigning care delivery models for consumers.
Petersen noted that agility is key to her organization’s response in a rural community with a local economy driven by agriculture, tourism and a local college. “What we’ve seen in all these instances is our ability to be flexible to respond to the many different needs of our community, and to be everywhere in the community, often in partnership with others, with our hospital constantly on ready to meet a surge in cases.”

Kaplan shared that his system saw a surge in need for COVID-19 treatment and that this experience was a foretaste of future volumes. As the U.S. population ages, it “will need more health care services, so we don’t anticipate significant declines in inpatient volumes. We do think there will be a significant shift in ambulatory care to telehealth...The number of visits may not change, but there will be a different balance between in-person and virtual visits.”

Petersen agreed about the importance of telehealth but added that “telehealth is not the same as access in a rural community. Telehealth needs to be incorporated into rural health, not seen as something remote that is delivered from an urban or suburban site.”

Greatest Opportunities for Health Care Transformation Post-COVID

Each panelist had a powerful answer for the question “What do you see as the greatest need or opportunity for major change in your health systems coming out of the COVID-19 crisis?”

Freese Decker emphasized, “We need to maintain our focus on personalizing services for the consumer and driving to achieve equitable health outcomes for everyone in our community through robust community partnerships. This connects back to issues of access and affordability. It’s not OK, for example, to see an 18-year gap in average life expectancy within the same census tract.”

Petersen noted that while Kittitas Valley Healthcare already had strong partnerships with other organizations in the community, these partnerships have strengthened. “We have new insights into the skills and capabilities of our paramedics and EMS providers, federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics and public health agencies.”

Kaplan shared that COVID-19 has made health care readier to rethink care delivery and to change. He noted that even when hospitals recover volume, most have still lost capital capacity. “We will need to rethink our spend, reset our pace and reprioritize our initiatives.”

Communicating Safe Returns to Health Care Sites

Panelists were asked, “What marketing and outreach initiatives have you used to help people understand that it is safe to come back to hospitals and physician offices?” Kaplan shared, “Once we had adequate supplies of PPE and policies and procedures in place to respond to the pandemic, we believed we were a very safe place to work and to receive care. We delivered that message at both the state and local levels. We also were in the media almost daily establishing our expertise, which made individuals feel safe coming here.”

Petersen again described a collaborative effort, saying, “Washington State Hospital Association...worked with all its members’ communications teams to ensure consistent statewide messaging on safety and the need for individuals to attend to their primary care.”

Freese Decker described Spectrum Health’s marketing campaign: “[It] emphasized cleanliness, safety and the protocols we had put in place, and we continued to run it through the summer. We also reached out to specific communities, including our Black and Latinx communities, and in many different languages, to reflect the rich diversity of our communities, to ensure everyone had the information needed to stay healthy and safe.”

Promoting COVID-19 Vaccination

Asked about how Spectrum Health plans to promote vaccination, Freese Decker emphasized, “The important thing is to have a vaccine that is safe and effective; we need to understand that both conditions are met before we recommend it. At the same time, we are preparing for a vaccine. Our focus is on preparing the electronic medical record, refrigeration needs to store the vaccine and distribution sites. We are already doing flu vaccines curbside; we need to start preparing for distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine now. We also will need to work together with our community partners and other local health systems to share consistent and factual information about the vaccine. When a safe and effective vaccine is available, the recommendation of a trusted clinician or other health experts will go a lot farther than a mandate.”

Petersen agreed that community members trust clinicians and that clinicians will be paramount in communicating about vaccination.

More for Members

SHSMD members can read the full report, which includes new considerations for capital strategy, other long-term impacts of COVID-19 and how hospitals responded, health care equity and the most effective ways that hospitals showed appreciation for caregivers.

SHSMD members also receive a free copy of Futurescan, SHSMD’s annual collection of insights into the future of health care five years from now. They also have free access to Scenario Planning for Hospitals and Health Systems, a guide to using scenarios for strategic planning.

To discuss health care transformation and post-COVID health care strategy with your peers, members are invited to visit MySHSMD.

SHSMD thanks Kaufman Hall for sponsoring this event.