The COVID-19 pandemic has been a trial by fire for hospitals and healthcare providers around the world. And yet, the pandemic has had several silver linings for healthcare organizations, such as breaking down barriers to changing the status quo and increasing nimbleness. The demands on resources and personnel have spurred creative solutions in a field often burdened by bureaucracy. In the post-pandemic future, leading institutions will carry forward both the drive to innovate and a renewed sense of community and resilience.

This spirit of collaboration is alive and well at Scripps Health, as Dr. Anil Keswani, corporate senior vice president and chief medical officer of ambulatory and accountable care, reports. "We have four hospitals on five campuses and more than 2,000 providers in San Diego, and we really became a unified system during the pandemic. COVID has been the humanitarian mission of a lifetime and it really brought all of our clinicians and staff together."


The vision for telehealth after the pandemic has passed
Clinical care is undergoing a transformation, as exemplified by the rapid expansion of telehealth services. Scripps Health is building on this opportunity, says Dr. Keswani.

"The country underwent the largest-ever clinical trial with COVID-19, and that clinical trial focused on how to use telehealth in a way that makes sense for patients. Now it is time to study the outcomes. Did we deliver on the experience and the quality? At Scripps, there are currently two areas that we are working on. On the ambulatory side, telehealth occurs in our primary care arena. During the pandemic, we deployed a ‘call, click, or come in’ model. Patients could have telephone visits, video visits, e-visits, and/or a traditional physical visit."

Dr. Keswani continues, "Specialty visits are just as important. For example, at Scripps Health we have a partnership with MD Anderson. There are many patients that want to seek care at the Scripps MDA Cancer Center and prefer a virtual consult. So, telehealth enhances access and convenience for patients who want to seek care with our specialists."

The advances in telehealth are having an impact in acute care as well. "One exciting project involves continuous glucose monitoring (CGM). We were hit very hard last year with COVID and were concerned about scarce personal protective equipment. Through our CGM project, we continuously monitored and managed glucose levels. This resulted in better outcomes, and the nurses needed less personal protective equipment," says Dr. Keswani.

How will healthcare providers retain doctors and nurses after the pandemic?
As in many industries, employers in the healthcare sphere are having a hard time hiring and retaining the staff they need. The pandemic prompted many employees to reevaluate their work lives and prioritize their personal needs and their family’s well-being.

To remain an attractive employer, Dr. Keswani sees four factors that healthcare systems need to consider. "One factor that is increasingly important is work-life balance. We are thinking about what this means going forward while still being patient-centric. The second area is technology. We are on Epic, and clinicians and nurses come to us because they trained on Epic. The third factor is focused on providing the right place for specialists to practice. To retain top-quality specialists, we want to provide a location for them to do clinical research."

Dr. Keswani continues, "The last factor is focused on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. One of our medical groups (Scripps Clinic) started a program in which a physician will create a short video based on their viewpoint. This allows others in the medical group to understand a different vantage point."

These four factors also apply more broadly across the economy. Work-life balance, technology, employee resources, and inclusion are vital to attracting and retaining the right talent in a competitive market. Employers who foster employee resilience, especially in hard-hit fields like healthcare, can increase employee loyalty and productivity.

How can employers promote resilience?
By focusing on holistic health management, balancing the use of technology, building quality relationships, promoting access to resources, and increasing diversity in the workplace, employers can help employees strengthen their resilience. Employers can find resources for workplace wellness at StayWellSanDiego.com. The website is part of Cigna’s initiative to help people in the greater San Diego area get stronger together, with mental health wellness support and tools available to everyone.