While it’s undeniable healthcare systems — and their employees — faced innumerable challenges over the past year, the pressures of the pandemic also provided opportunities for growth. Many organizations made system improvements, expanded their services, and changed how they recruit providers for the better. Here are four healthcare success stories that came out of the pandemic.
1. Embracing telehealth
Prior to the pandemic, Ochsner Health in Louisiana offered a telehealth option, but it only made up a small percentage of their overall patient visits.
“The goal for 2020 was to get our virtual visits up to 3,000,” says Melissa Love, VP of professional staff services and the office of professional well-being at Ochsner. “During the period of the pandemic, we’ve done over 324,000. We blew that goal out of the water!”
One of the reasons Ochsner was able to scale virtual patient visits so effectively was because they had already invested in telehealth infrastructure. “We have a telemedicine team that’s part of our service lines, and so we already had a comfort level and multiple specialties doing virtual visits,” she says.
Love says the pandemic allowed many patients and providers to gain familiarity with telehealth, and that will benefit them in the future. “If you have the ability to have follow-up visits and other things safely and appropriately without having to travel all the way to a brick-and-mortar location, that’s great,” she says. “I think the patients’ comfort with being able to have quality care, for the right type of visits, with a provider virtually is a silver lining of the pandemic.”
2. Expanding into new markets
While many healthcare organizations have incurred financial losses due to decreased patient volumes, others have continued to grow.
ChenMed, which offers primary care for seniors, opened 15 new centers across the country in the second half of 2020. Marjorie Alexander, ChenMed’s managing director of physician recruitment, attributes this growth to the organization’s value-based care model.
“In the fee-for-service model, you depend on billing to create revenue. So, the sicker the people, the more people can be in hospitals, and the more money hospitals can make,” Alexander says. “We’re doing the opposite. The healthier our patients are, the more proactive we are to keep them safe, healthy, and happy at home.”
ChenMed was able to keep all of their physicians on staff throughout the pandemic, and like Ochsner Health they pivoted quickly to using telemedicine to maintain care. They now operate under a mixed model for patient visits.
“Normally, we like to see patients once a month. Now, we’re able to do much of that virtually. Then, maybe once every few months, they need to actually come into the practice itself for an in-person visit,” she says.
3. Selling the rural lifestyle
With lockdown orders issued in large cities, the pandemic also changed the urban living experience. For many, this instilled a desire to consider relocating to rural areas.
“All these people living in big cities — locked in an apartment — were thinking, ‘This isn’t the way to live anymore. I want a rural location where I can go outside and go to a park or go biking,'” says Jennifer Waters-Plemon, physician/APC recruiter and onboarding team lead at Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin.
This mindset helped Marshfield have a very successful recruiting year in 2020. They hired 40% more providers in 2020 than in 2019, while also opening a new hospital.
Even going virtual with their recruiting helped them in their recruitment efforts. “We get more candidates that are at least interested because there’s less commitment on their part to fly out here, so we get them on a hook a little bit sooner. Then they come and see the facility and the community and think, ‘This is definitely something I could see myself doing,’” Waters-Plemon says.
4. Becoming self-reliant
The shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) at the beginning of the pandemic was an eye-opener for many organizations that had depended on external vendors for supplies. At Ochsner, they used this discovery to do something about it.
“We are actually going to start producing our own PPE in 2021,” says Love. “We've already identified space and we will be hiring people in the Lafayette area of Louisiana to start producing our own inventory.
“The pandemic really brought front and center that our priority is making sure that our physicians and clinical staff are safe. In order for them to feel safe and comfortable taking care of patients, we've got to make sure that they're educated and comfortable that we've got the right materials and equipment for them to do their job.”
By developing their own PPE manufacturing line through their innovationOchsner (iO) division, Ochsner won’t ever again have to be solely reliant on external vendors for safety supplies.
Small improvements make a big difference
Despite the difficulties endured over the past year, the pandemic has presented many opportunities for improvement for organizations that have been forced to adapt. Whether these changes become permanent — or bring about even greater healthcare successes — remains to be seen. For now, Love urges others to look for the silver linings the pandemic has brought. “That’s what helps you keep motivated to move forward,” she says.
CHG can provide your healthcare facility with the doctors, nurses, and allied professionals you need to continue to grow your organization. To learn more, contact us by phone at 866.588.5996 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.