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Innovation During COVID-19 Podcast Transcript


As the pandemic continues, Allina Health Aetna believes we need to find ways to safely co-exist with COVID. I'm Tom Lindquist, and today I'm talking to Shaye Mandle about the evolution of healthcare. So, first Shaye, I'll let you introduce yourself. 

Well, thanks, Tom, I appreciate it. As Tom said, my name is Shaye Mandle and I'm the President and CEO of the Medical Alley Association, representing the world's greatest healthcare community in the global epicenter of health innovation and care.

So, I want to start by talking about how COVID-19 is changing the way we work together, and how we are adapting to a new environment. And so, you're in a unique position, leading Medical Alley, so are there any early learnings that the pandemic has taught the healthcare field?

I think there are several, Tom. First and foremost, we're seeing that relationships and collaboration is the most critical aspect of healthcare as we know it, and healthcare moving forward. So, as we look at companies that have had huge impacts, they've needed to work together to achieve objectives that were right in front. How do we deal with this huge surge of patients coming in? How do we get PPE for our frontline workers? How do we get the equipment we need? And many of those product companies, have had to reach into their supply chains. There's been, you know, global shortages. And so, we're seeing more than ever the relationship side of healthcare has been critical for organizations to be able to meet the objectives in front of them.

We're also seeing great collaboration opportunities. As you know, COVID-19 has really opened the door for how we look at care delivery forced again, in part, by organizations needing to be prepared for COVID-19 and a surge, and looking at the continuum of care through other means and telehealth has really stood out as emerging during this time. And so, we are seeing those opportunities for collaboration, digital health companies, providers and payers in ways that we talked about for a long time, that we've hoped for, for a long time. But that, that the pandemic has really forced those collaborations to happen differently. So, at Medical Alley, during the crisis, we've had members from every sector reaching out to us, looking for new partners, new technologies. 

Looking for help with their current product lines, making sure that they're connecting with providers to do what they can do to serve during this time. And so, we have seen both a spirit and specific examples of relationships, collaboration, and partnerships in ways that we weren't seeing before the pandemic.

I agree. It's been interesting to watch the environment shift. What about expectations? How do you think expectations have shifted for healthcare companies since the pandemic began?

Yeah, I think expectations, they're rapidly changing, as you know, and every organization that we're talking with is looking at real-time model change. I think expectations are always focused on the patient, in this business. And there's no question that those expectations are dramatically changing. So, we got a patient or health consumer population sitting out there and actually receiving services in ways that they have not before. They're also seeing a healthcare system that looks to be overrun and so there is great consternation out there in the patient population about what the future of healthcare looks like in terms of being able to meet changes like we're seeing, but also, again have that continuum of care, and I think the emerging theme of meeting people where they are, will have a huge impact on where we're going in terms of healthcare. 

Our company's expectations are also changing. Again, as you know, we've, we've got member companies who because of the pandemic saw orders for their products increase as much 2600% in a two-week period of time. And you know, they're wrestling with can we have the expectation that this volume is going to increase? How much do we change our business to meet current demand, while trying to predict in the future what this may or may not look like? And then we have other companies that have the opposite problem due to a lot of surgeries and elective procedures being curtailed. And we've had companies that have had to go through some difficult times and now they're looking, as that demand comes back, that there's a long pent-up demand issue. And so, they're seeing high volume after no volume. 

So, I think expectations are changing across the board and what everyone, you know, is looking for is that certainty of where we're going to be and I think we all know at this point, there isn't any model for certainty as we continue to move through the pandemic.

You and I have talked about this a couple of times over the last few months as it relates to the future, and there is no crystal ball, but as you look to the future, what do you see happening?

Well, again, as a board member, you know, we have this conversation at Medical Alley at the time, both the community again, and the organization, are uniquely positioned to have an impact on this, and I think as we've discussed, we've had a vision for the future of healthcare that really was about meeting the patient where they are. It was about looking at them as health consumers, as opposed to patients, creating an experience for them that looks and feels like the way we experience other sectors and the way we have a personal relationship with technology companies. I think we see a future now where our thoughts on accelerating that over a decade, it's happening in real-time. It's happened over the past couple of months. So, the door is wide open, I think to begin the migration to where we wanted healthcare to be. 

I think we're also seeing the obvious challenges of what does an alignment of incentives in a new world look like. Is there a bigger role for payers to really drive this kind of change, and what does that mean for providers? I think one of the challenges in the short-term is the financial impact that has occurred for providers. And so, when we think about what is the federal government going to do in terms of putting resources back into the system? Will that take us back a little bit in terms of providers wanting to recapitalize as oppose to embracing this move, both to value, but also care delivery in a completely different way. So, I think what we see or at least what I see is that, that opportunity is before us, and that we're not going back.

And so, I think over the next, I'll say 24 months, I think dealing with the acute challenges of the pandemic will be giving way to these transformational models, and then the issue is going to be how quickly can companies within our healthcare sector, not just adopt those new models, but continue transformation through the way they innovate around those models, and I do think again, you know, when we talk about what should healthcare look like in five years or ten years, I think we have accelerated that. It's been forced on us and I do think over the next couple of years we see a transformed healthcare system with a focus on the patient that allows us again to meet them where they are with a huge impact then on health disparities and some of the inequities that we continue to see, the patient experience improves dramatically.

And then, I think we've got a lagging couple of years after that where the institutions of healthcare are shifting their model to adapt new practices, adapt new technologies, move away from the system that we've been in and I think payers are in the spot to really help bring in those technologies, make those changes on the provider side. So, I do see, five years from now, a healthcare system that looks dramatically different. I would say with a lot of uncertainties in terms of what that pace looks like, how clunky it is, or how smooth it is over the next 24 months.

So, what do you think the lasting impacts are going to be as a function of COVID-19 in the healthcare sector?

I think it changes everything, Tom. I really do. I mean, I think there's always going to be a lot of concern and I think there will be this conversation especially in the public policy arena for the next three to twelve months, the concern being what if this happens again? I think there's going to be people in the public policy arena especially around dollars saying you know, we just spent a bunch of money to make sure that shored up in the way that we would have been if we'd spent the money to deal with the pandemic in the way that we have. So, I think that's a little bit concerning and we need to kind of work our way through that. 

You know, I think the lasting impacts of COVID-19 is the realization that healthcare can be different. So, just as we're going through psychological changes and impact personally with the pandemic as well as, you know, a host of other issues we're dealing with not just here in the U.S. but around the world, I do think the lasting impact is this showed us, just like it's shown all of us we can use Zoom and work from home, that we can change. That we can have a different healthcare system. And I think that opens the door for us to take a look at really some of the big challenges that we've been discussing, whether it's a shift of value, health disparities, social determinants of health, can we look at individual disease states and bring the resources of healthcare to engage in prevention. Can we really change the cost curve?

And I think more than anything else, the lasting impacts are showing us that we can, right? I mean, we don't have a vaccine for COVID-19 yet, but we're on a pace to produce a vaccine, you know, in a timetable never even close to this before. So, I think sort of the best of the healthcare system has been stepping up and showcasing itself. And I do think the lasting impact, I mean this is – you know, we did put the first rocket into orbit, we can go to the moon, and we can do it on a timetable that's really accelerated. And I think that'll be the lasting impact, that when we look back in ten years, of course, we'll look at the downside of this, just like we have other catastrophic events. But I think we're going to look back on 2020 and say this was the year that we reminded ourselves that we're innovators, that we can change.

Change was forced and that we will endorse and adopt those things moving forward and that ten years from now, we'll look back and say, even though this was catastrophic in some ways, it was the greatest jolt to healthcare perhaps that we've ever seen. And really made a difference in the way people experience and how we pay for healthcare in the future.

I agree. And now it's incumbent upon us in positions where we can drive that innovation, to make it happen. So, last question and it's open-ended, so what is your best advice for co-existing with COVID?

You know, it's the crystal ball, you know, when we tell our members, when I talk with our members and employees, everybody first and foremost, right now is obviously focused on the health and safety of their employees and patients coming into the system. There is a co-existence today that, you know, has us wearing masks regularly, social distancing, some of those lasting impacts are going to be with us for a very long time. You know, as you and I have talked about, I, I think there are a lot of lessons learned in terms of the workplace. I think we've discovered the utilization of technology just from an employee perspective that allows us to look at the way we spend money in our organizations, how to be more productive, and how to deliver more value. And I think we have learned a lot of lessons.

I think for healthcare similarly, kind of getting the proof points forced upon us in ways that used to be maybe let's try a pilot project, I think is rapidly changing not just how we're going to do healthcare but it's the mindset. So, as you said, as leaders, you know, what's your advice in how we live through COVID-19? I'd say for leaders, be bold, be courageous, see what's happening around, and run with it. I think that's the opportunity as leaders. For people in our community that work in healthcare, be patient with your leaders. Understand your best interests are what they keep in mind, but also, continue to bring ideas to the leaders of your organizations about how we can continue to work in ways that are more productive.

I think another issue we're all going to have to wrestle with, we are as employers is, you know, what is the mental health impact of all of this, right? So, Tom, you and I have had this conversation. We're blessed. I love my wife and that's going great, and you know, we have the ability to work at home in a way that might not be the same for everybody else. But I think we are going to have to take stock of the psychological impact of all of this, and again, I think as business leaders, it will be incumbent upon us to make sure we're thinking about that, not just whether our employees can sit in front of a computer and be productive, but how holistically we look at our culture, our business culture, and how we support our employees. So, again, I would tell everybody, you know, how do we get through COVID-19? The answer ultimately is we really do get through it together. 

We all say that, it's a great tag line, but institutionalizing that culturally with our employees and the way we treat our patients as they come in, I think that's the best way to deal with COVID-19. I mean, let's, let's live, believe, and practice, what we say. And I think that is the way through.

That's outstanding advice. Shaye, thank you very much for your time and your insight. I appreciate all you do. Thanks.

Always a pleasure. Thank you so much, Tom. Appreciate it.


You bet.

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