When crisis forces change, will we change for the better?

William Fleming, PharmD, President, Clinical and Pharmacy Solutions at Humana, posted this blog entry on LinkedIn.

(And can we keep up the momentum, post-pandemic, to make a sustainable difference in healthcare?)

If you would have told me 3 months ago that I’d be Humana’s “quarterback” or “offense leader” for a global pandemic, I probably would’ve looked at you in utter dismay. While some of us, particularly in healthcare, may have cognitively understood that we were “ripe” for a pandemic of this proportion, I don’t think any of us were prepared to face the challenges that have come our way over the past several weeks, nor the new roles we would assume.

We’re learning some difficult lessons – and much of it in a very hard way. Those who are on the frontlines of care are forging the path, and we are all indebted to them for their sacrifices and perseverance as they help us better understand the illness, as well as the best preventions and treatments. They are also teaching us more about how to serve compassionately, even in the face of a (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime threat of this nature.

Other lessons are being imparted, too, especially as we employ technology in different or expanded ways. With social distancing, we’ve had to learn to live in a more virtual world – from adjusting to “distance learning” with our school-age children to ordering groceries online with “click-list” technology and curbside pick-up. Many of us have also – perhaps for the first time – had a virtual versus face-to-face healthcare provider appointment.

None of these concepts or activities is new. However, we’ve certainly had to incorporate them into our lives more frequently or quickly than in the past, with our immediate crisis hastening such change. While this pandemic is undoubtedly devastating and unfortunate, we can’t deny some of the positives that will likely transpire as a result, particularly in the healthcare arena, such as:

  • Process shifts and more preparedness in how hospitals are focused on acute (e.g., COVID-19) versus chronic illness
  • Renewed attention on creating capacity before another “COVID-19” and the resulting needs for whatever becomes our “new normal” on the other side
  • The rise and strengthening of telehealth capabilities with traditional telehealth providers and physicians – for their benefit and the benefit of relevant care recipients
  • The adaptation of payer reimbursement (like Humana) for telehealth visits at the same rate as traditional office visits

Humana has been moving in this direction – both in vision and in practice – for some time. However, I am encouraged by the surge in interest and need that will likely give digital technology a big push forward in improving health and healthcare. Ultimately, my hope is for expedited and sustained advancement of this work so that we can be “always on” and ready to help our customers (e.g., members/patients, healthcare partners) whenever and wherever they need us. Now is our golden opportunity to really bend the trend!

The COVID-19 pandemic, despite its many negatives, has created a genuine, real-world case for change, including a solid reason to be better equipped in managing a variety of challenges as we head into the future. Now more than ever perhaps, I have felt great pride in the work Humana is doing, including our preparation for disaster recovery, and am very humbled to be our company’s quarterback, nudging us toward the end zone. We are doing well by doing good on many fronts. However, none of us who may modestly claim even an ounce of “success” in surviving this virus and its impacts can rest on our victories. 

Once the immediate crisis is behind us, we cannot resume our old ways of thinking, working, or doing. I am hopeful that the lessons we have learned are not in vain and will continue to fuel more rapid innovation and readiness – to develop improved solutions, enhanced integration, and more robust partnerships to make the world a better place. We look forward to doing our part to make this happen and welcome your solidarity in our shared mission as we weather the storm together.

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