Healthcare Leadership: How to Meet the Challenges of the New Normal

Updated on August 30, 2023
top view. team of medical professionals discussing issues together.

Healthcare executives have faced numerous challenges induced by the pandemic. Although the crisis is ongoing, the panicked emergency that pervaded two or three years ago has slowly transformed into a new normal. As anxiety levels continue to decrease, healthcare leaders may be inclined to believe that the worst is over and that the remainder of the 2020s will be less turbulent than the preceding years.

However, it’s crucial that we resist this complacent assumption. The reality is that the next crisis is already looming, although it will differ significantly from COVID-19. America is rapidly aging as the Baby Boomer generation advances into their 60s and 70s. The numbers speak volumes: in 2020, there were 56.1 million Americans aged over 65, accounting for 17.1% of the population. This number is projected to increase to 73.1 million by 2030, comprising 21% of the population, and will continue to rise in the following decades, albeit at a slower pace.

Challenges and Opportunities 

The elderly require more healthcare resources than the young, which means our healthcare system will face pressures and challenges as it struggles to meet surging demand.

Any national healthcare system would struggle to deal with this kind of population shift, but the American system, which is fractured and relatively decentralized, will be uniquely strained. In a Q&A for Forbes, Kelsey Mallard, founder of the telehealth platform Sitka, detailed our system’s pain points and how innovative leaders can locate opportunities. Mallard suggests that the industry must expand its horizons, delivering care not only at hospitals and in doctors’ offices, but also in nursing and assisted living facilities, as well as through the use of telehealth apps and other digital healthcare platforms.

While legal, bureaucratic, and technological hurdles are likely to emerge, those who can create new products and services tailored to this new environment will dominate the healthcare space in the years to come and ensure that elderly Americans live happier, healthier lives.


The leadership skills that healthcare executives will need to tackle the upcoming crisis will bear similarities to those used during the COVID-19 pandemic, but will not be identical. Creativity will be a crucial factor, as always. However, the previous crisis was acute, and leaders had to respond rapidly, continuously adapting their actions to the rapidly changing situation.

Conversely, the upcoming crisis will emerge gradually, but it could still be severe. To ensure successful management, healthcare leaders should start preparing now, utilizing foresight, planning, and company resources to develop and execute a long-term vision.

Achieving this will necessitate the right mindset. In a helpful Forbes article, Dr. Robert Pearl provides a useful framework for thinking about what will be required. According to Dr. Pearl, leaders will need to use their “brains” (reasoning skills and logic), “spines” (courage and bravery), and “hearts” (compassion and empathy) to address the challenges of healthcare in the 2020s.

Let us consider how this framework could be used to think about the opportunity of digital healthcare. Over the last decade, novel technologies such as data analytics, AR/VR, and AI have made significant advancements. In the meantime, digital infrastructure has proliferated with the widespread adoption of smartphones and devices and the development of 5G networks. As our traditional healthcare infrastructure faces the influx of elderly patients, we will need to create new digital healthcare infrastructure to meet the demand.

VR check-ups by doctors with nursing home patients or AI-powered apps to monitor home health outcomes may seem like science fiction, but they could be essential components of our future healthcare system. Healthcare leaders will need the creativity to envision such technologies, the logic to determine where they will be most effective, and the courage to develop them.

They will also need something else: empathy. Here’s where Dr. Pearl’s final component comes in. Executives will need to empathize with patients to understand how revolutionary changes and technologies will be perceived by them. An app or service may be brilliantly conceived and flawlessly designed, but if patients are uncomfortable using it, it is unlikely to succeed.

The positive news about the aging crisis is that we know it’s on the horizon. If healthcare executives can adopt the right leadership mindset and begin preparing their organizations for the future, they may avoid the sleepless nights of 2020 and 2021 while boldly reimagining healthcare and its delivery.