The Role of Leadership in the Post-Pandemic

This crisis, as in all others that the world has gone through, exposed the qualities and weaknesses of leaders, governments, and institutions around the world.

The reopening of the market will bring challenges to the health system:

  1. Continue to treat patients with COVID-19 and resume care for patients with unrelated health problems. They will have to re-supply the full portfolio of services to preserve their financial health, while maintaining their critical role in winning the fight against COVID-19 and meeting the health care needs of their portfolios.
  2. It is necessary to understand that the portfolio has undergone significant changes by reducing the number of elderly people (decreased revenue) and increasing the loss ratio of the other age groups (increased cost) – an important challenge.
  3. In addition to the economic implications, additional delays in critical care – including elective procedures, preventive and maintenance care for chronic conditions and important diagnoses and examinations – will have profoundly damaging impacts on health outcomes.
  4. Considering the new population profile, the initial moment will be focused on rehabilitation and prevention of new injuries. While, in parallel, a redesign of the current assistance models is required, now focused on health promotion through the strengthening of Primary Care.

COVID-19 made all organizations aware of the limits of their ability to learn quickly in an extremely fast-paced environment, in which days of hesitation can cause major social upheavals. Resilience is no longer a theoretical concern: companies have become aware of the fragility of the critical systems on which they depend. And the crisis generated the need for companies to demonstrate that their goals and values are not just empty words written in stable scenarios.

What should change in Leadership priorities

In addition to underlining the long-term imperatives set for success in the next decade, the pandemic challenged leaders to respond to the enormous challenge of transition – the need to get out of a devastating economic situation, to build a path to growth and prosperity.

Some healthcare companies have survived this short-term impact and will be able to access long-term options. But while survival may be high on the agenda, prospering is a long way. And that requires leaders to respond to a new environment, to a new customer and to high social expectations in order to lead the way out of this crisis.

The post-pandemic will make non-market strategies more prominent. The resilience of the system can only be created through cooperation between companies and between companies and governments. The creation of cooperation networks should guide the new health business model, including more capacity sharing and greater collaboration on ways to screen and balance the demands on care. The rational use of resources and the demand to improve the health of the population through health promotion and prevention initiatives, should guide the redesign of some strategies. However, the current ecosystem is not configured for this type of cooperation.

“It is now evident that the segmentation between public and private in SUS is a fallacy. People and their health needs do not recognize walls and fences. The interdependence between the public and private sectors is evident. Health systems with walls are not built. It is more than time to end the “fences” of SUS. The PHC reform instituted in 2019 is already moving in this direction. We must bring information technology so that information, services / supplies / equipment and financing follow people’s clinical trajectory. Even when they cross the ‘borders’ of the public and private segment. If we do not take the opportunity to seek a truly Unique health system, in which the public and private segments have homogeneous principles and cooperate in the search for health results, we will lose the opportunity to evolve as a society ”. Erno Harzheim – Secretary of Primary Health Care (SAPS).

Leading Adversity

Take the opportunity to challenge the absolute truths, test the new, digitize everything that can be digitized, stop what should be discontinued and start redesigning the system.

There will be no “return to normal”.

It is time to recognize the importance of planning for return. The return of the blocks will not be easy – mainly because we remain vigilant against the massive resurgence of the virus, in the absence of a vaccine or specific treatment.

For some leaders, it has been difficult to devote much time to discussions for reform. The pandemic is likely to result in a series of discontinuous changes that will fundamentally reshape health care. These changes include:

  1. The expectations and needs of citizens;
  2. The combination of resilience and productivity required by buyers and financiers of health services;
  3. The need for flexibility and reduction of physical structures, introducing virtual health platforms.

This is the time when boards and CEOs are likely to have the greatest opportunity in their careers to positively impact their organizations and the communities they serve. This opportunity should not be missed. Boards and CEOs must prioritize creating an environment in which decisions are made calmly and based on facts and data. In this scenario of high uncertainty, leaders must ensure that they are actively attuned to real-time information at all levels of their organization, in addition to external forces, to inform decisions. Finally, the ability to act, innovate and execute at scale at unprecedented speeds is likely to be critical. We see some examples of organizations that have accelerated projects scheduled to take months and years to a schedule of a few days and weeks.

The New Customer

With the disease under control, companies will need to start the journey to win over the new customer in the post-crisis world.

There is a consensus that this crisis has accelerated changes underway for some time. These changes are expected to change the attitudes, habits, behaviors, and patterns of demand.

The most complicated aspect of this will be to distinguish between short-term changes induced by the crisis and permanent changes. Companies will need to detect emerging trends by analyzing and observing them to define new business models.

To do this, companies will need to change their strategic mind set, that is, currently a product is developed and people adapt to it, the “new” will be to understand the real need of each person and offer customized products.

In this scenario, two trends are already clear:

  • The first is a massive acceleration for digital platforms.
  • The second will be to restore consumer confidence. Health services will have to implement a series of new security measures, just as it was necessary to restore confidence in air travel after the September 11, 2001 attack.

Accelerate Digital Transformation

The digital transformation that had been treated in a discriminatory manner and at its own pace, should now be an urgent priority.

As companies adjust to the post-COVID-19 world, they must accelerate their digital transformation. The first wave of digital transformation programs revealed that they are just as challenging as other large-scale change programs. These programs need to be holistic, focused on creating value and not predominantly driven by technology or restricted by existing processes and offerings. Organizations will need to be redesigned to combine human ingenuity with artificial intelligence (machine learning). Companies must focus on the human side of digital transformation as well as the technological side, incorporating new ways of providing health care.

The health care service of the future will be one that has a human on the other side to receive the patient.

The New Professional

 The repositioning of all health professionals, which impact both cost and clinical results, is mandatory for the sustainability of health systems in the post-pandemic world.

It is up to the physician to rescue his clinical leadership focused on the patient – and on the principles of bioethics – and no longer on his personal interests. It is your responsibility to build individualized therapeutic plans with clear short, medium- and long-term goals.

It is up to the nurse to rescue his care leadership, assuming his role as a clinical manager and coordinator of integrated care focused on the patient, both in the promotion phase and in the recovery and maintenance of his health status.

And other professionals must understand, after all, what their real role is in integrated care, actively participating in the structuring and conduct of the therapeutic project.

Within this new positioning, Virtual Health will play a major role in patient accessibility to health promotion, prevention, and recovery services. But it can never be used just as another isolated methodology for providing professional services. Virtual Health will only make sense if structured as an important stage of integrated care, during each patient’s journey.

Challenges, opportunities, and responsibilities of healthcare companies in the post-pandemic

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