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From “Wartime” to “Peacetime”: How Healthcare Can Recover and Reform in a Post-Pandemic Next Normal



Just like a war, the coronavirus has engendered significant societal change that will continue to be felt in the months and years ahead.  In a new report, McKinsey Health offers a compass for healthcare leaders to navigate the post-pandemic next normal, a period that – albeit peaceful - will look nothing like the pre-COVID-19 world.


Citing the need to plan around economic challenges while also leveraging opportunities that come with healthcare technology advances, the report seeks to help leaders in the healthcare sector tread uncertain waters and positively impact their organizations and the communities they serve by issuing a recovery call to action broken down into five phases:


Phase 1—Resolve: How organizations can structure a Nerve Center to combat COVID-19


By this stage of the pandemic, all healthcare organizations should have fully functioning centres focused on operational continuity with expanded supply and care capacities, extra ICU beds and medical equipment, a trained workforce and alternate space capacities and supply chains, says the report. 


The report also argues that care delivery models and protocols must be adapted according to emerging data, that financial barriers be eliminated wherever possible, that new COVID-19 specific guidelines be established to ensure access to care, and that steps be taken to minimize barriers for non-COVID-19 and acute and chronic care patients.


Phase 2—Resilience: How the economic impact may affect healthcare organizations over time


Recent reports suggest that the economic impact of the virus could be the biggest felt in almost a century. According to McKinsey, healthcare leaders will need to maintain liquidity, while also developing cash flow models that identify future cash crunches. Healthcare leaders should also take aggressive measures to remain solvent, says the report, and then grow for sustainability to better serve patients.


Phase 3—Return: How organizations can begin to scale up operations once the worst of the crisis is over


The challenge of returning to business as usual as the pandemic subsides will be a complex undertaking for healthcare organizations, says McKinsey. With the possibility of subsequent waves of the coronavirus, healthcare leaders will need to define new methods of working and rebalance capacities for ongoing COVID-19 flare ups as well as demand for non-COVID-19 health services.


Phase 4—Reimagine: How we can fundamentally reinvent health services given what we have learned


Rethinking healthcare systems and services will require imagination, innovation and resourcefulness, says McKinsey, with a will on the part of leaders to embrace transformative opportunities. To reimagine healthcare, the report suggests that healthcare leaders focus on challenging traditional role definitions in staffing, shift to remote and at home care delivery systems and permanently embed speed of decision making and execution into their systems.

McKinsey also suggests that health leaders examine community/patient-centered models of healthcare, develop data sharing, find ways to scale up and down in space, and adopt digital delivery care models for patients. Finally, McKinsey suggests that leaders seek more resilient, transparent, and efficient supply chains, and that they focus on holistic drivers such as social support, food security, housing, and wellness to help patients manage their health. 


Phase 5—Reform: How will the relationship between government, businesses, and individuals change?


According to McKinsey the COVID-19 Pandemic has highlighted the need to meet increases in in-house patient volume while at the same time managing seamlessly across in-person and virtual care. In today’s digital world health care leaders must rethink the speed with which they need to react and implement policies around critical healthcare infrastructures, supply reserves and contingency production facilities.


Following the Pandemic, the relationship between government, businesses, and individuals will fundamentally change, says the report, with the onus on healthcare leaders to anticipate changes to policies and regulations as society seeks to avoid a future health crisis.


Governments across the globe, says the report, may pursue actions to prepare for a future crisis, including the acceptance of new health monitoring techniques such as digital applications specifically for pandemics and temperature taking, a renewed priority around data interoperability that improves responsiveness for drug and vaccine development, the creation and rollout of treatment protocols, the strategic reserve of supplies and agile manufacturing, and a“Medical National Guard” that can help fill critical labor shortages in times of extreme need. Also expect governments to establish protocols to pool clinical resources in times of crisis, the standardization of currently fragmented medical systems, and heightened expectations of financial protection for patients. Finally, the ongoing dissatisfaction with the healthcare system’s ability to respond in the current crisis coupled with an economic downturn could indicate significant health reform in the future.


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