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HealthLeaders CMO Exchange Concentrates on Top Healthcare Issues

Analysis  |  By Christopher Cheney  
   August 26, 2021

CMO of Denver Health spotlights five of the major challenges in U.S. healthcare.

This week in Kohler, Wisconsin, a group of clinical leaders is focusing on some of the top issues in healthcare during the HealthLeaders Chief Medical Officer Exchange.

The coronavirus pandemic has been one of the most disruptive periods in U.S. healthcare in generations. The pandemic has exposed longstanding challenges such as health equity and created new challenges such as securing adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE).

HealthLeaders Chief Medical Officer Exchange member Connie Savor Price, MD, CMO of Denver-based Denver Health, conducted a presentation that focused on five healthcare challenges linked to the pandemic and healthcare in general.

1. Labor shortages and burnout

The coronavirus pandemic has compounded labor shortages in healthcare with a heightened level of burnout, Savor Price says.

"Burnout is affecting everyone in healthcare, including physicians, advanced practice professionals, and our nursing colleagues. They are all experiencing this issue. Many are leaving the profession—in statistics that I have seen, 30% of healthcare workers are considering leaving the profession. And those who have stayed are having a hard time—60% of healthcare workers have reported a mental health impact from COVID-19," she says.

2. Long-term impact of COVID-19

COVID-19 will persist for many years, says Savor Price, who is an infectious disease specialist. "COVID will stay. We have to start thinking about how we can live with COVID-19. It is going to become endemic in our viral respiratory testing, and it will become endemic among our patients and our healthcare staff. So, we have to determine how we are going to be living with it."

The pandemic is going to have far-reaching impacts on healthcare, she says.

"What we are going to see is that some of the protocols that we have put in place for infection prevention will continue. There will be universal masking around patient care—I think that is here to stay. We have more respect for infectious diseases—particularly emerging infectious diseases. It is very much like what we experienced after the start of the AIDS epidemic, where we now routinely use gloves for drawing blood. That was not always the case before AIDS. Now, we will routinely see use of more PPE such as medical masks for patient care and tightened visitor policies."

3. The changing role of the hospital

The pandemic has had a profound impact on the role of hospitals in communities across the country, Savor Price says. "During the coronavirus pandemic, the hospitals have taken on a lot of public health functions. Our hospital systems have been giving vaccines. Our hospital systems have been providing testing. Public health agencies have been doing some of this work; but in our community, testing did not go well. It had to be done by institutions that could process a specimen and report the results."

Hospitals are also likely to play a greater role in disaster preparedness, she says. "We are seeing federal funding for disaster preparedness that used to go to public health departments going directly to health systems."

4. Adoption of new technologies

One major healthcare issue that predates the pandemic that still looms large is adoption of costly technologies, Savor Price says. Technology adoption comes with the need to develop new competencies in the healthcare workforce, she says. "We have to think about the implications for credentialing and privileging, and make sure staff have the competencies to use the equipment that you have."

Healthcare organizations must focus on making technology sustainable, Savor Price says. "Unfortunately, many of the new technological tools have not increased our efficiency. So, we need to find innovations that truly reduce costs, and that is going to be especially true with the labor shortages and the burnout. We need to be able to extend our providers further using new technologies."

5. Future of value-based reimbursement

Despite many years of effort to shift healthcare financing from the fee-for-service model to value-based models, the future of value-based care remains questionable, Savor Price says. "We have been hearing about value-based reimbursement for years. The adoption of it has been slow. I think the slow adoption is because it is so hard to measure and pin down value. It is hard to determine which metrics should be rewarded."

Adoption of value-based care has been modest at best in The Centennial State, she says. "In Colorado, we have a low rate of value-based reimbursement, and we are largely still fee-for-service. We have not seen value-based reimbursement take off."

Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care​ editor at HealthLeaders.


Labor shortages are being compounded by provider burnout during the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 is expected to have far-reaching impacts in healthcare such as continuation of universal masking in care settings.

Adoption of costly technologies is one of the top challenges in U.S. healthcare that predates the pandemic.

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