While I have intimate knowledge of the conversations happening here in Arizona around how changes in healthcare delivery affect the business community, I also have the privilege of learning from my colleagues across the country. Having just stepped down as board chair for America’s Essential Hospitals, an organization dedicated to advocacy for hospitals and health systems across the country, and soon joining the American Hospital Association Board of Trustees, I look forward to continually bringing insights back to Arizona so that we can all continue to navigate the post-pandemic environment together.
With that, I want to share some of the insights I have gained from my involvement with AEH and in my day-to-day role as president and CEO of Valleywise Health, Maricopa County’s safety net health care system and only public teaching hospital.
First off, technology has always shaped the delivery of healthcare services. Today, a focus on precision medicine, artificial intelligence, greater consumer connectivity and greater access to care are notable developments.
Healthcare is not only capital intensive, with equipment and buildings being necessary components of our delivery system, but it is also data driven. Managing large amounts of healthcare data can be daunting for both consumers and providers. Physicians and other clinicians spend enormous amounts of time documenting, which takes away from the most important part of their job: treating patients. We are working on innovative ways to reduce the time spent in non-clinical activities to improve patient and provider satisfaction and, ultimately, improve healthcare outcomes for our patients. After all, despite healthcare being focused on technology, at the end of the day, healthcare is a people business and it is those people — our doctors, nurses and support staff — who will deliver high-quality, compassionate care to patients and their families.
Certainly, the pandemic created the urgency to develop remote technology, such as telehealth visits and remote monitoring, and also to accommodate an ever-growing remote workforce. The pandemic also exposed serious cracks in our healthcare workforce infrastructure, creating serious shortages in essential personnel, many of whom deliver care directly at the bedside or in emergency settings.
The pandemic also exposed the financial vulnerability of many essential safety-net hospitals throughout the country who serve a disproportionate amount of care to underinsured or uninsured patients. Many of these institutions, like Valleywise Health, rely heavily on government funding sources such as Medicaid, and were seriously impacted during the pandemic. Efforts are underway to identify and support those essential hospitals in the vital mission they have in the communities they serve.
Learn from the COVID Experience
Finally, our nation’s pandemic response was massive, yet we should take advantage of the learnings during the COVID-19 pandemic to improve our emergency response. The logistics of delivering vaccinations, providing personal protective equipment and other supply-chain issues were formidable. We should take this experience to ensure better preparedness going forward.
And while we, as healthcare leaders, find innovative solutions and learn from the last two years, businesses need to do the same. Looking ahead, companies will need to develop creative approaches to recruit and retain essential personnel. Beyond competitive wages and benefits, non-traditional and flexible work schedules along with remote access and improvements in workforce climate are all going to be imperatives for successful companies. Those that find ways to integrate general health and wellness, both physical and mental, within their company cultures will be the ones that find greater success.
Much has changed, and will continue to change in healthcare delivery, but for the business community, I believe that those who innovate, continually educate themselves and their employees and revisit their health and wellness practices regularly will be the ones that excel now and into the future.
During his time at Valleywise, Steve Purves has overseen the transformation of the healthcare system that now boasts 11 community health centers, three behavioral health centers, the renowned Arizona Burn Center and, opening in 2023, a brand new Valleywise Health Medical Center. Steve is the president and chief executive officer at Valleywise Health and a member of the American Hospital Association Board of Trustees.