Page 6 — Health Care & Senior Housing Quarterly — July 2021 HEALTH CARE — TRENDS D isruption often is perceived as a negative thing, but that is not always the case. Undoubt- edly, the COVID-19 pandemic brought major disruptions to all industries, with health care being no exception and arguably shaken more than any. No person or industry is immune from change. Some disrup- tions are unpredictable, and some can be anticipated. The challenge moving forward will be choosing to innovate instead of being forced to reinvent. In my 23 years of working with health care facilities, I’ve noticed a clear pat- tern of those who adapt and embrace disruption faring better than those who do not. Some aspects of the “pre- COVID” world will return, and some will inevitably, be changed forever. Following are just a few of the health care industry disruptors today. n Self-triage. As the pandemic continues to slowly loosen its grip on society – largely thanks to the hercu- lean efforts of care providers – health care systems need to transition from reactive, short-term planning to a focus on the post-crisis, long-term challenges that remain. Just as care providers perform triage to assess and treat the most urgent needs first, the same can be applied to health care systems. Urgent needs include managing capacity and staff resiliency through remaining pandemic surges. The next priority is to stabilize finan- cials and recover volume. Once these items have been addressed, it’s impor- tant to understand how new con- sumer behaviors and preferences are informing changing health status as well as equity and adjust accordingly. n Taking advantage of the crisis recovery period. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the challenges that remain from the pandemic. However, like it or not, it’s given us the oppor- tunity to change ourselves. There perhaps has never been a better time to reorganize gover- nance and leader- ship structures to better serve the system. Emergency response efforts highlight organiza- tional structures that slow down deci- sion-making and hinder coordination. Financial pressures also can jump- start conversations with difficult, but necessary, decisions about which business functions to keep in-house and which can be outsourced to third parties. Conversely, this is a good time to evaluate which services should be brought back and where; a recovery period could provide the chance to sunset underperforming programs or shift settings. Capacity and where procedures occur always can be re- evaluated.While more outpatient capacity is needed, health systems will be even more reluctant to down- size acute inpatient capacity. After clinging to hospital-based reimburse- ment, hospitals will confront which services can safely move to alterna- tive sites of care. n Virtual health care is here to stay. Although the size of the role virtual care will play moving forward is con- tested, most people agree it has been incredibly influential. Many aspects of virtual care are sure to be permanent parts of the care landscape moving forward. After being forced to use telehealth, consumers (and some phy- sicians) will expect continued avail- ability of virtual care services. Some patients even prefer virtual visits to in-person ones. Although it has its limitations, virtual care is particu- larly beneficial for those who don’t have readily available, close access to health care, such as those in rural communities. If the choice is between a virtual appointment and not being seen by a physician at all, something is better than nothing. Dr. Eric Topol, physician, scientist and author, said, “In the years ahead, I expect some 50 to 70% of office visits to become redundant, replaced by remote moni- toring, digital health records and vir- tual house calls.” Although technol- ogy certainly has its limitations and always will, as it continues to prog- ress, the limitations will decrease. Dig- ital disruption has and will continue to cause some drastic industry chang- es, but the focus should be on how the changes can enhance and further personalize our health care experi- ences. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, precision medicine, robotics, drones, 3D printing, virtual reality, Internet of Things and mobility have allowed major advancements to occur in the field and provided con- veniences that we didn’t even real- ize we wanted. Things that would’ve been hard to imagine 50 years ago are starting to become relatively common now. It’s exciting to think about how much further technology will advance medicine. n Retailers are relevant. Retailers have been playing an increasing role in the health care industry for several years now, with hybrid companies such asWalgreens, CVS and even Best Embrace disruption instead of forced reinvention Paul Stefanski Health care studio director: principal, EUA Please see Stefanski, Page 13 Froedtert Community Hospital-Pewaukee