Accountable Healthcare - Healthcare Transformation Accelerates With Covid-19
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September 4, 2020

Healthcare Transformation Accelerates With Covid-19

The Covid-19 crisis has not only transformed us as consumers, we can shop the nearby grocery store and never leave our house—more convenient and less virus risk.  It is also accelerating changes in our healthcare system and in some positive ways: the idea of telemedicine was struggling to get traction but is now starting to take hold. Other innovations are presenting themselves, and those that are aligned with a shared purpose are finding the greatest success.

 I asked healthcare marketing expert Sam Meers at Barkley to weigh in. Meers said, “Covid-19 has exacerbated every fissure that existed in the healthcare system, stretching many of them to the breaking point and demonstrating the misalignment of incentives between payers and providers. But Covid-19 has also pushed forward healthcare services such as telemedicine, in-home primary care, and in-home testing. Bringing those services to life in a healthcare organization is far easier when everyone is aligned around a shared purpose—when they understand “why” they’re creating disruption and working to move the company forward.”

 I also spoke with Mark Viden, SVP of Brand for CommonSpirit, which is the organization over Dignity Health, on how they have dealt with the Covid crisis and what other brands can learn from their approach. 

Jeff Fromm: How is the Covid crisis changing the healthcare industry broadly?

Mark Viden: Covid-19 brings with it a lot of fear and confusion amongst all of us. It's a new disease, and it's something that people are searching for answers. When I think of what people are looking for amongst the noise, and we all know there's a lot of noise, they're looking for a voice they can trust, a voice that they've had some history with, a place that they can go to get those answers.Recommended For You

The healthcare systems across the country are becoming those voices, that ultimately, people are turning to, to find the answers.

Fromm: How is Dignity adapting to the changes that are going on not only for patients but also employees and doctors?

Viden: One of the things that we've had the good fortune to be able to stand on is our brand, which is Hello humankindness. This has been a very innovative way to connect consumers and patients with our healthcare offerings. It goes above industry, if you will, and it has been a series of communications that ultimately posit that humanity holds the power to heal, meaning it's in all of us, and we're all in this together. When I think about how we're adapting, we're really doubling down on this message of connectedness and purpose that I think again, in all the noise that we have to wade through right now, is very resonant, and that's what people are looking for.

Certainly, there's some operations changes that are happening, and happening very quickly. Telemedicine is one of those changes in the space of six months has completely really revolutionized the care we offer.

Fromm: Is telemedicine here to stay or other virtual platforms? And will doctors get the same compensation for telemedicine as they do for other procedures that are in-person, if you will?

Viden: One, it's definitely here to stay. I think telemedicine benefits the consumer. It's medicine on their schedule. They don't have to come into a healthcare setting like a hospital or an ER clinic if they don't need to, and who wouldn't rather be at home to get consultative advice if they didn't have to come in? But you raise a good question in terms of reimbursement. That is all to be determined, not going to get into too much regulatory discussion, but telemedicine wasn't even available to organizations like Dignity Health and Common Spirit until the Covid crisis.

With crisis comes opportunity. This crisis did present healthcare systems the opportunity to make this offering. But it's still very early on. There's a lot of communication and frankly, education that has to happen. When does it make sense to use telemedicine, and when does it make sense to come in? I think the public is still trying to work through that. We are certainly creating advertising and communications to explain it, and one of the tenets that we do that on is one of simplicity and clarity.

The business of healthcare itself is very complex, very complicated, and add in insurance, and even what is a very difficult landscape to navigate. So, our job right now is to make the path the easiest for the consumer who's looking for that kind of service.

Fromm: What can other healthcare brands learn from how you've tried to approach this and some of the consumer-centric or patient-centric decisions you've made?

Viden: Having a foundation of trust before a crisis hits is central to being able to reach out in those moments of anxiety and those moments of disrupt. Early on we here at Dignity Health set out to have honest communications, to have a brand that again stood for personal connection. What we have found is that when something like Covid presents, people are more comfortable asking us questions. People are more comfortable coming in or calling or emailing the kind of things that are on their mind. Social media has been an amazing tool for us during this time.

It's a listening post that we saw early on, I want to say back in late January, early February, that consumers were starting to pay attention to news that was just starting to bubble up, you'll remember this crisis for our country began in the Pacific Northwest, outside of Seattle and Tacoma. We have hospitals and medical centers there, and we were able to see early on the kind of questions and concerns that people had and we were able to address them not only for that market, but all of our markets.

What I would tell other healthcare entities is really to be open to listening, to be ready when something starts to come in, and then to disseminate that information if possible. So Dignity Health is part of Common Spirit, which is one of the nation's largest not-for-profit healthcare systems. We are able to utilize the size of our organization to get that kind of information to all of our people out quickly.

Fromm: Do you feel Dignity Health has a strong purpose? And how have you gone about leveraging this and building a brand that remains strong through a crisis, and particularly a health crisis?

Viden: Yes, well, we have what we call a shared purpose, which is really a brand purpose, as I'll call it. So a brand purpose I think tells people what is important, and there's a hope that people will buy into that. A shared purpose I think is built by employing a collaborative approach. One that looks inward certainly to our physicians, our employees, our volunteers, but also outward to the communities that we serve. Think of a Venn Diagram. Three circles where you have the internal truth of an organization, you have the external needs of consumers, and in our case patients. And the third circle is really that cultural tension, that you want to lean into.

You want to really understand what are people feeling.  What are they talking about? And then in that center is that shared purpose. Our shared purpose is to unleash the healing power of humanity. It is a sense that again, we all hold the power to heal, be it if you're a frontline caregiver, or you're in the business office on the back end. All of us have this power, and we also believe that with the community and so our shared purpose is one that we have been in for some time. And we have really tried to activate that engagement from the community.

When you have crises like Covid-19 you want to have that purpose so that at the end of the day, people know who to trust, who to turn to. It's intuitive, it's emotional as opposed to rational. You want that top-of-mind awareness to percolate through these moments.

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