Healthcare is one of the most rapidly evolving industries, and for good reason. While stagnancy within any other industry may curtail a company’s competitive advantage, stagnancy within the healthcare sector can be life changing. It compromises our ability to provide the highest level of care to patients in need.

In order to do right by our patients, the healthcare system must continue to evolve. And while this transformation is necessary, it also poses certain challenges to our existing infrastructure.

As such, CEOs of healthcare facilities often find the healthcare landscape a difficult one to navigate. For example, virtual care has completely transformed how doctors and patients communicate with one another. The COVID-19 pandemic has put telehealth capabilities to the test, proving all the more how digitized healthcare is revolutionizing the industry. But while all signs point to radical change, the U.S. healthcare system is impeding widespread adoption.

Throw in other age-old issues like talent acquisition, regulation changes, and increasing oversight and it’s clear that healthcare leaders face immense pressure influencing change in such a dynamic field. Implementing effective solutions is only possible when leaders fully understand these challenges and how they could impact their organizations.

Staying on Top of Technological Advancements

Emerging technology is critical to the betterment of our healthcare system. It’s not only the most effective solution for better care, but it also lessens the impact healthcare organizations and patients feel when there are complications within the industry.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) predicts that the U.S. will experience a shortage of 122,000 physicians by 2032. COVID-19 is only worsening the impact of this shortage as doctors, nurses, and other healthcare staff who become sick are having to be pulled from their workstations. The larger reason for the shortage isn’t because professionals are leaving their positions, though — it’s because the population continues to age at an alarming rate. To account for people living longer lives and making sure everyone has equal access to healthcare, it’s currently estimated that the United States would need an additional 95,900 doctors and nurses.

But that’s not going to happen overnight, or even within the next decade. This is where we see technology’s biggest benefits. As healthcare organizations face staff shortages, virtual care options help pick up some of that slack. Telehealth consultations reduce wait times by 20 percent and allow professionals to more easily treat common health conditions and manage chronic illnesses that require more frequent touchpoints.

Telehealth’s benefits are undeniable, so why aren’t we seeing it everywhere? Sometimes knowing something is good isn’t enough to set it in motion. Healthcare leaders must introduce virtual care into their existing workflow in a way that feels effortless, they must understand how it fits into their bigger organizational goals, and then they must incite user adoption, which is especially difficult to do with older generations.

Cybersecurity Concerns

You can’t talk about technology without talking about privacy and security. One of my biggest undertakings as CEO of a New York nursing home has been converting our organization to the cloud. Cloud adoption is a no-brainer, but data security and HIPAA compliance concerns are a real threat.

In 2018, over 471 million patient records in the United States were exposed by cyberattacks. Cloud technology is meant to enhance patient care, but when patient information is compromised, it can have dire consequences. Just a few years ago, healthcare organizations were exposed to the worst cybersecurity attack in history.

The attack happened after a cyber gang called Shadow Brokers released a ransomware called WannaCry and wreaked havoc across the world. More than 20 healthcare organizations were affected; in some instances, doctors and nurses even had to turn patients away and cancel life-saving surgeries. And there are countless examples like this.

The healthcare industry holds some of the most sensitive information available, yet it fails to adequately address information security. When asked about their cybersecurity efforts, over 81 percent of healthcare executives have reported that their organizations experienced some level of attack within the last few years. This hasn’t only proven costly for the healthcare system, but it puts patient lives at risk.

Shifting from Volume to Value-Based Care

The healthcare industry is finally recognizing the need to move from volume to value-based care. Fee-for-service has been the commonplace for so long, but we’re seeing more organizations start to implement fee-for-value structures instead.

In volume-based care, a successful system is measured by high-profit margins not quality of care. The opposite is true in value-based care, which takes a holistic view of patient health and services. Because healthcare executives have the best interest of their patients in mind, they work to connect their department initiatives and their ongoing staff education to match that end goal.

Value-based care is the solution to what is wrong with our current healthcare system. It reduces healthcare costs, particularly for those with chronic health conditions, which are influenced by patient outcomes. It also leads to healthier populations. In a world where half the population doesn’t have access to essential, life-saving services and 13 percent of Americans — or around 34 million people — know one person who has died from not being able to afford critical medical attention, value-based care is the answer.

Yet, most monumental change comes with hurdles blocking widespread adoption. Some healthcare CEOs lack the operational wherewithal to implement these initiatives. Value-based care also requires specific technology in order to be successful. Going back to the struggles some healthcare leaders have with technological inclusion, this often becomes another setback.

We are at the forefront of systematic change. For healthcare executives, riding this sea of change is difficult, but we must. As we move forward, we need to question and challenge the outdated and traditional processes, resources, and procedures that were once revered in the past. There will be hurdles to face every day, but when your focus is on your patients and staff, overcoming these barriers is worth it for the healthcare industry’s future, and theirs.

Originally Published on SCORE