WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF VALUE-BASED CARE?

Commercial risk will be a critical catalyst of progress – it’s complicated, but is it possible? We think so.

X
Our Take

How Covid-19 Will Impact the Clinical Workforce

20 Minute Read

Covid-19 has suspended long-standing clinical norms and turned the financial position of clinicians on its head. This has opened a window of opportunity for health care executives to advance much needed changes that clinicians historically resisted.

Health care executives should act now to take advantage of this limited window. Read on for our four recommendations to promote clinician-led change.

 

The pre-Covid-19 reality

Heading into 2020, clinical labor was not the driving force for disruptive innovation in health care. The industry needed to radically rethink ways to provide care that curbed costs and expanded access. But frontline clinicians addressed these challenges with ideas that would bring only incremental improvement. Embracing the need to drastically change long-standing norms is difficult for most workforces, and it’s particularly challenging for clinicians. Clinicians must safeguard the health of their patients and have a proven track record of achieving great clinical advances through measured steps over time.

Additionally, the economic outlook provided little reason for clinical labor to change their ways. While consumer demands and new market entrants may have been forcing provider organizations to reinvent themselves, individual clinicians were a precious resource under all scenarios. Unemployment had fallen to 3.5% nationally. Health care jobs were projected to increase by 14% over the coming decade, with a particular demand for experienced clinicians.

In general, demand for clinical labor was a brake on the pace of needed change. Rather than pressing frontline clinicians to drive transformational change, most health care executives were struggling to attract and retain needed clinicians. They needed to reenergize clinicians already burnt out by change, to compete for experienced clinicians with growing career options, to hold onto older clinicians contemplating retirement, and to attract new clinicians looking for a different work-life balance.

 

Our take

Frontline clinicians have risen to the challenges of Covid-19 remarkably well. They have responded to unprecedented patient need and dire resource constraints with innovative ways to deliver care and by stretching beyond their traditional care sites and roles. This flexibility is key to not only withstanding the pandemic but remaking a health care system that delivers far greater value.

We believe that new realities triggered by the pandemic have opened a window for health care executives to make significant headway on needed change customarily slowed by clinician resistance. In addition to Covid-19 suspending long-standing clinical norms, it has turned the financial position of clinicians on its head.

The U.S. unemployment rate jumped from 3.5% in February to 14/7%, the highest level since the Great Depression. This economic fallout altered the outlook of the clinical workforce. Many clinicians are part of these numbers, and nearly all fear the ill effects of depressed patient volumes. Patients other than those with Covid-19 are returning slowly, in part due to safety concerns but also due to their own financial woes. Put more succinctly, many clinicians suddenly feel financially insecure and, in turn, more open to the needs of their employers and partner organizations to excel into the future.

But this window of opportunity for advancing much needed changes to how clinicians deliver care is temporary. The pandemic has not shifted overarching supply and demand trends for clinical labor. The U.S. population will still age, develop more chronic conditions, and demand more complex care. While baby boomers in the clinical workforce may delay retirement, they are still at the tail end of their careers. And professional associations, unions, and other groups representing frontline clinicians will reassert their voices as our economy recovers and heated competition for a limited clinical labor pool returns.

 

Four recommendations

Health care executives should make the following strategic moves to promote clinician-led change:

  • Recommendation

    Normalize how clinicians are now flexing to provide care

    Read More Collapse
  • Recommendation

    Focus your engagement efforts on bolstering emotional support

    Read More Collapse
  • Recommendation

    Pick your future clinical workforce now

    Read More Collapse
  • Recommendation

    Regain control of your employer brand

    Read More Collapse
 

Parting thoughts

Remember, this window of opportunity is limited. Use the following questions to identify how you can take full advantage of this time to advance clinician-led change.

Normalize how clinicians are now flexing to provide care

  • How are your clinicians flexing in response to Covid-19 with respect to roles they are filling, where they are practicing, and when they are working?
  • Which of these changes will be most beneficial to your organization beyond the Covid-19 crisis?

Focus your engagement efforts on bolstering emotional support

  • Are your clinicians showing signs of emotional exhaustion? Which specific subgroups, if any, are disproportionately impacted?
  • Are clinicians actively utilizing your current emotional support offerings, such as Employee Assistance Programs? If not, what is needed to boost utilization?

Pick your future clinical workforce now

  • Does your current clinician staffing strategy reflect projected volumes?
  • Which open clinical roles did you have trouble filling before Covid-19? Is there a new supply of these clinicians in the market now?

Regain control of your employer brand

  • How are you communicating about safety with patients and their families? How can these efforts also help win back the trust of current staff and position yourself as an employer of choice for future talent?
  • What hard-to-fill roles would you like the media to profile to help attract future candidates?
 

More takes on the post-Covid-19 world

 

Have a Question?

x

Ask our experts a question on any topic in health care by visiting our member portal, AskAdvisory.