2 min read February 2022 — In an interview with Invest:, Bruce Cohen, CEO of OrthoCarolina, talked about how healthcare has been impacted by events of the last few years and the ways in which the sector will continue to innovate. He also discussed how the pandemic has escalated changes that needed to happen in the industry, and how the challenges of the labor shortage and meeting the demand of new growth are forcing the sector to adapt.
What have been some key successes for you over the past year and what are your priorities for 2022?
2021 was very interesting. We thought we were emerging from the pandemic earlier in the year and that just didn’t happen as there was a lot of hesitancy and waiting for vaccines. We saw that turnaround in probably the second to third quarter of the year. People got back to normal activities and they also returned to us. The major issue we are dealing with is the labor shortage as it has impacted healthcare significantly. We are all trying to figure out what that will look like over time.
What issue is driving workforce shortages in the area?
It’s the perfect storm. The statistics show one in five healthcare workers is leaving the sector. I think it has to do with a lack of investment in infrastructure, replacement and training programs and the stress and fatigue of the pandemic that is making people look for other, and sometimes virtual opportunities, to get away from the hands-on experience of healthcare. All that together makes for a difficult situation.
What opportunities do you see moving forward in your space?
We’ve started to see the movement of musculoskeletal care into the outpatient setting. Traditionally, a large portion of what we did was done in hospitals or other settings. A number of years ago, we started moving procedures into the outpatient setting and specifically to ambulatory surgery centers. The ability to deliver care in these low-cost, high-quality settings is also a benefit for people seeking to avoid COVID exposure.
I think the shifts have been happening for a while. They were accelerated during the pandemic and I don’t see it ever going back. These changes are driven by many factors and, ultimately, they are the future of what we do in the musculoskeletal space. Our outdated episodic approach to healthcare needs to change and we must be more preventative and cost effective.
What do you see as the future of telehealth?
Telehealth is here as we were forced to accelerate its use in response to the pandemic. Particularly in primary care, there are unbelievable applications. For what we do in musculoskeletal care, telehealth has to be part of our future planning. We are just scratching the surface. It’s all about access and touch points with patients that can be done much easier online and virtual. As we get better and the patients get better at it, it will only continue to grow.
What do you see as the next big tech advance that will make an impact?
Technology is rapidly expanding in healthcare. It will affect patient interaction and care but also treatment opportunities. There are some groundbreaking projects being developed by our providers and research institutes, these include advances in care of amputees and prostheses that soon can impart the sensation of touch. We have a very active research institute that has always been productive but especially over the last two years. In 2020, we had close to 100 peer-reviewed publications covering the full gamut of orthopedic care.
What are the driving factors behind the cost of healthcare?
We cannot continue to spend seventeen percent of GDP on healthcare, as employers and employees can’t afford it. We have to focus on how to keep people healthy. Our response to the pandemic highlighted some holes in the system. We need to figure out preventative, standardized care so that industry is truly vested in providing those best-case outcomes. The variation in healthcare delivery is where we are falling short.
What are some challenges and opportunities related to population growth?
We have to have good access to healthcare. Typically, the people moving here are from the younger demographic so providing what they want when they want it is key. Access is paramount, whether it’s through virtual visits or more accessible clinics. We have transitioned over to EPIC, the largest platform for electronic medical records as well as practice management. We are going to leverage that to coordinate care with other providers and to provide better access in terms of appointments for patients.
What is your outlook for the next year?
The outlook is strong as people continue moving into the area. We are expanding and continue to recruit and replace providers. We all need to prepare for permanent changes to the workforce and expand through technology or expanded services. Value-based care and population health management have to become a reality.
We are excited about the changes that are coming to healthcare and the things that need to happen. Over the next few years, healthcare is going to be delivered in a different manner and we are embracing that and preparing for it.
What key positions are you looking to hire next year?
Throughout the organization, we are looking for talented people and people looking for a less than traditional approach to healthcare. We are also looking for those who can do a virtual component as well, if applicable. With remote opportunities, we can expand our search and take a hybrid approach to certain positions.
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