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In honor of March being Women’s History Month, we are shining a light on a recent Women in Healthcare webinar event hosted by Rachel Woods. Rachel has served as Managing Director at the Advisory Board since 2014, where she brings deep healthcare knowledge, strategic insight and operational expertise to her hands-on work with executives and frontline providers.  In this webinar, titled “State of the Healthcare Market Under the New Administration,” Woods focused on four main objectives:

  • How healthcare purchasers and policymakers are shifting their strategies as a result of COVID-19
  • How the pandemic is likely to impact provider consolidation and site-of-care shifts
  • How the delivery system will need to shift operating models to enable greater resilience in the future
  • What the election means for the future of the healthcare industry

The overarching theme throughout Woods’ presentation is that 2021 is going to be the year of the resilient healthcare system, starting with purchasers and policymakers. Woods notes that the need for providers to improve durability has not shifted purchasers’ demands for affordability, but the pandemic has altered the ways public and private payers will pursue affordability.

Woods also points out that, unlike Medicaid, Medicare is likely to back off from any immediate cuts to unit prices, but short-term moves will only increase the urgency to control unit pricing increases over the next 3-5 years. In the wake of the recession, employers will mostly forgo most cost-shifting to patients, but will seek savings by accelerating physician-led efforts to aggressively steer patients to lower-cost care settings. Finally, Woods suggests that while the pandemic complicates the economics of Medicare ACOs and will likely temporarily slow adoption, private payers will look to accelerate uptake of risk among independent physician groups. Bottom line? Healthcare is not getting any less expensive or necessary, but under the new Administration there is an increase in concerted effort to make it more affordable and widely accessible to more people. 

Part of the health system resilience that Woods described relates to the big uptick in stay-at-home economy for patients’ site-of-care. The demand for in-home care has risen significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and there are several reasons why. For one, patients feel safer getting care at home rather than going to a healthcare facility. Additionally, patients experienced the convenience of receiving care at home during COVID-19 lockdown, making care at home more desirable. Lastly, patients are getting comfortable using technology for virtual care and remote monitoring. While there are still many disparities that exist when it comes to virtual care for all, including socioeconomic status and racial factors at play, all signs point toward a future where telehealth becomes the norm as opposed to in-person visits.

Woods was quick to point out that while the road to resilience for the healthcare industry will be long, it is indeed worth it to ensure flexibility, agility, efficiency and equity for patients and providers. Woods outlined four steps to resilience that providers of all shapes and sizes can use when reassessing their strategic plans in the coming year.

  1. Step 1—Focus on purchaser priorities. Questions to ask include “What motivates healthcare purchasers today?” and “Which tools are they most likely to use in pursuit of affordability?” Consider Medicare, Medicaid, employers and private insurers.
  2. Step 2—Establish a partnership strategy. A question you might ask includes “How will the delivery system attempt to build resistance through scale and partnership?” Consider physician consolidation and partnership.
  3. Step 3—Care model redesign. Questions to ask include “Are home-based and virtual models the future of the site-of-care shift?” and “Who controls the pace of the transition?” Consider infusion therapy, senior care and telemedicine.
  4. Step 4—Operational reform. One question to ask is “How should provider cost structures evolve to meet the demands of resilience?” Consider supply chain reform, facility planning and workforce sustainability.

In closing, Woods considered the implications of the new Administration as it pertains to the healthcare system and beyond. It should come as no surprise that controlling the pandemic is at the top of the new Administration’s list. Other areas of focus include investing in green infrastructure that supports job growth, rollback on Trump tax cuts, enacting laws to protect voting rights and altering campaign finance law.

Woods concluded with a quote from Mayo Clinic President and CEO Dr. Gianrico Farrugia, who said, “There was this notion that for true change to happen in healthcare, it had to come from outside of the industry…But COVID-19 has convinced me even more that we have a moral obligation—as well as a path forward—to be the ones transforming healthcare from within.” The future of healthcare is within us, and the time to act is now. Happy Women’s History Month!

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