By Melissa Powell
The pandemic has underscored the need for business leaders to be light on their feet in the face of disruption, so that they might be better positioned to explore new possibilities. And certainly the possibilities are many. More than ever before, in fact.
Consider the rise of remote work, and how that is expected to become the norm, even after this healthcare crisis is behind us. Consider further what that might mean for workplace engagement and commercial real estate. Will office buildings even be needed anymore?
And consider the manner in which supply chains were ruptured during the early stages of the pandemic, and how they are still undergoing repairs. Long term, is it out of the question that blockchain will provide a permanent fix?
The point is, the landscape has shifted like never before, and it is forever changed. It will take a sure-footed CEO to negotiate the new terrain — someone who knows the best path to pursue, the best route to the summit. Because there is simply no going back.
Healthcare is, of course, the field that has been impacted like no other. And while there were undeniably dark days at the height of the pandemic, there have also been exciting developments that bode well for the sector’s future.
Those developments have cut across several lines, including:
The need for social distancing resulted in a dramatic turn toward this method of care delivery. In March 2020, for instance, telehealth use was 154 percent greater than it had been 12 months earlier, according to the CDC, and all indications are that telehealth is here to stay.
It can be especially useful in medically underserved areas, which according to the federal government account for nearly 80 percent of the rural U.S. And it will be especially critical in the years ahead, given the increasing life expectancy.
The Allure Group, a network of six New York City-based skilled nursing facilities, employs Telehealth Solutions, which is just one indication of its longstanding commitment to technology. Allure also installed Samsung tablets at each of the 1,400 bedsides in its facilities well before the pandemic, and while residents initially used them for entertainment and relaxation, they became an invaluable means of communication with loved ones after government-imposed lockdowns were put in place.
In addition, Allure, in collaboration with Vis a Vis Health, provides recently discharged patients with hand-held monitors that make it possible to improve transitional care.
AI adoption has also spiked since the onset of the pandemic, as it has been shown to have many cost- and time-saving uses. As an example, it can be used to automate image diagnosis, as when it has helped identify COVID-19 on chest X-rays, while also reducing dosage errors and playing a role in robot-assisted surgery.
There is also the predictive analytics piece to the AI puzzle. In short, this technology is helping to hasten the rise of personalized healthcare, as it enables clinicians to study such factors as a patient’s genetic profile, medical history and lifestyle in order to fashion the ideal treatment plan. And certainly patients have come to expect such individualized attention, as it is akin to that which they experience in the retail space.
In addition, AI can go a long way toward easing administrative burdens, a major cause of physician burnout. It has been concluded, in fact, that the healthcare AI market, valued at $3.9 billion in 2019, will increase to $107 billion by 2027, a staggering compound annual growth rate of 49.8 percent.
Data was once described as “the new oil” by British data scientist Clive Humby, and that has proven prophetic, as it greases the skids in multiple sectors. The question is, how can data be managed and analyzed so that it can enable leaders to make actionable decisions?
AI is, again, a large part of the answer, especially given the fact that the sheer amount of data is expected to explode in the years ahead. By the end of 2021, some 79 zettabytes of data will have been created, copied, captured or consumed around the world, up from two zettabytes in 2010. As dramatic as that difference is, consider that by 2025, that number is expected to rise to 181 zettabytes.
So yes, new tools will be needed to make the most of that mountain of information. And assuming those tools are equal to the task, it is believed that operations — including those in the healthcare space — will become considerably more profitable and efficient.
This was, perhaps, the most astonishing thing to occur during the pandemic — the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines, each using messenger RNA (mRNA), by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.
The process, which usually takes years, ended in December 2020. It had begun some 11 months earlier, on Jan. 11, after the virus’ genome was posted on a public website by Chinese scientists.
Clinical trials came over the summer, and by the fall the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was declared by its developers to be 95 percent effective, the Moderna vaccine 94.1 percent effective. The first of those was granted emergency-use authorization on Dec. 11, the second exactly one week later.
The lesson here is that science can rise to the occasion, and quickly, during a crisis. The other lesson is that more than ever, leaders in all fields need to be alert to all the possibilities around them, and agile enough to take advantage.
Melissa Powell is COO of The Allure Group, a network of six New York City-based skilled nursing facilities.