The COVID-19 pandemic is stretching the healthcare system in the United States. Healthcare professionals on the frontlines are facing conditions we haven’t experienced since the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918. Clinical professionals are rising to the occasion, providing amazing care. Licensed clinicians who work in roles away from the frontline are stepping up to help. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is in short supply, forcing innovation to protect staff, and companies are retooling to make ventilators. Hospitals are expanding capacity through makeshift units. It’s all hands on deck.
However, hospital beds and equipment aren’t the only things the healthcare system is lacking right now—it’s lacking critical revenue. The COVID-19 pandemic has all but shut down surgeries; elective procedures are not being performed. I know a few people who are waiting for either eye or back surgery. My friend with back issues is suffering from agonizing nerve pain, but his surgery is seen as elective, so he must wait for relief.
I work at Floyd Medical Center, and we normally perform an average of 50 surgeries daily. Right now, the number hovers between 10 and12. Surgeries drive revenue. Elective surgeries often are covered by commercial insurance, which reimburses more than Medicare and Medicaid do. For example, an average cost for my friend’s back surgery is $40,000 dollars. Commercial insurance will negotiate the reimbursement but pay the balance after his deductible and when he reaches his out-of-pocket maximum. That surgery will provide necessary revenue to the hospital. Fewer surgeries for a significant period may put some smaller hospitals in a position where it will be difficult for them to recover.
Not-for-profit hospitals are feeling the pinch even more. In exchange for tax-exempt status, these hospitals provide care for the uninsured beyond stabilizing in an emerging situation. Hospitals must absorb the cost of care. For example, the hospital where I work spends more than $12 million annually on charity care and another $27 million attributed to individuals who cannot afford to pay for services. Those costs must be covered by incoming revenue. Less revenue stretches its ability to care for all who enter its doors.
All healthcare systems are spending more but earning less, which is a critical issue. A recent news headline read “49 Hospitals Furlough Employees,” while another news story highlighted a health system chief executive officer who donated half his salary to an employee relief fund. Systems are doing their best to keep employees whole, but it’s a struggle.
Healthcare will have a period of healing after this crisis. The post COVID-19 healthcare environment will likely look different from what we experienced prior to the pandemic. Once the it eases, the C-suite will have to examine its strategy to rebuild financially. It’s also likely that the approach to monitoring and developing the patient experience will change as well. Talent development professionals have such an opportunity right now. We can play key roles in shaping this new environment; however, we must begin strategizing.
Understanding your health system’s strategic plan and financials is essential. It stretches beyond knowing the organization’s mission and vision. Consider how your team can contribute to the achievement of your organization’s short-term and long-term goals. What are the areas your C-suite believes are critical to the organization’s health? If you’re unsure, inquire.
Talent development professionals can have a tremendous impact. Consider what your team can contribute to help your organization achieve its goals for success. Key opportunities include onboarding, patient satisfaction and customer service, and culture improvement and leader development; however, those are the low-hanging fruit. Once you’ve picked those, consider opportunities with departments needing performance improvement to play a stronger role in your organization.
Your ability to be integral to your organization’s success is unlimited. Virtual opportunities will likely expand, which may require a retooling of the education your department provides currently. Virtual also means a greater ability to reach outlying departments and offices.
Partnering with senior leadership demonstrates talent development deserves a seat at the table. Talent development can have a strong impact and take a leadership role in your organization’s success. Grab this opportunity.