The pandemic has been horrible, and there is no “bright side” that makes it worth it.
That said: if, five years down the road, we can’t see evidence of improvements we’ve made based on what we’ve learned through the challenges of Covid-19, then we’ve failed.
One example comes from Edward S. Kim, M.D, M.B.A., physician-in-chief, City of Hope Orange County and vice physician-in-chief, City of Hope National Medical Center. City of Hope is a world leader in the research and treatment of cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases.
Dr. Kim said for years he’s been trying to get the industry to change one particular rule about clinical trials, to no avail. Before being allowed to participate in a trial, each individual must give informed consent by way of a “wet signature”: a physical signature, rather than an electronic one.
“For two years prior to the pandemic, I was trying to change that requirement,” said Dr. Kim. “Why do we need a wet signature? You can buy a house or a car with an electronic signature, yet you couldn’t join a clinical trial. Forcing people to show up in person to sign something creates a barrier and restricts access, when we say we’re trying to increase access.”
During the pandemic, that restriction was relaxed. People were allowed to give informed consent with an electronic signature.
“During the pandemic, the industry was able to activate clinical trials in less than three weeks, while in any normal situation it would take a year,” he said. “Why does it take a year when there isn’t a global crisis going on?”
Examine the System
Other health innovations became essential during the pandemic: telehealth and home health.
According to Neha Nanda, MD and director of infection prevention and antimicrobial stewardship for Keck Medicine of USC: at first, patients told doctors they felt like telehealth visits were not personal enough. They missed the in-person office visits.
But Dr. Nanda said that changed once the doctors started thinking beyond their usual in-office standardized limits, and figured out how to make the most of their new ability to “see” patients in their own environments.
“Here’s an example: we were able to help an 80-year-old female feel safer at home, so she doesn’t succumb to falls,” said Dr. Nanda. “All she had to do was show us how she gets off the bed and walks to the kitchen. That would not have been possible without telehealth and without a conversation we had among my team the week prior. We had brainstormed ways we might personalize our care, because the feedback we received from patients was that they didn’t feel as close with their doctors as they used to.”
They were able to personalize the telehealth experience.
Bringing care into homes was another milestone that the pandemic advanced.
Gyasi Chisley, former president of hospitals and clinics at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), has been working on bringing cancer care into the home. He says that “even in cancer care, we can and should be coming to you. There are some regulatory hurdles, but one of our goals at CTCA is to provide home screening, home infusions of chemotherapy, home care throughout treatment. Why would I ask the sickest of the sick, immunocompromised person to come to the hospital? I want our team to come to you so we can make sure you’ve got access to healthy food, good nutrition and the care and support you need.”
They’ve been able to do this during the pandemic, and he hopes they can expand that capability even more. First, it’s a more personalized way to get treatment. Also, it’s a better way to give treatment—creating more opportunity for unleashing individuality.
“At CTCA, 60 percent of our patients are co-morbid—meaning they have another condition in addition to cancer,” he said. “If we’re already coming into your home and focusing on your wellness in addition to your treatment, we’re better able to treat you as a whole person whose life and health are being affected by more than just the most prominent or acute condition or disease. That’s important, because nothing exists in a vacuum. Your overall health affects your cancer, and your cancer affects your overall health.”
Don’t Go Back
I held a series of strategy sessions with senior and emerging leaders from multiple industries representing various functions and roles. The overwhelming consensus among them about the changes they’ve had to make during the pandemic was: I hope we don’t go back to the way we were.
- “We need to be throwing everything we do up in the air and letting it come down in a better way.”
- “Covid-19 has turned our world upside down and people’s perspective of the range of options they have is mighty. We’ve had a radical change of power, and it’s shifted to consumers, students and patients.”
- “Everything’s changing, and it feels chaotic. But it’s really not chaotic. It’s just different.”
The benefit of having change forced on us is that it helps us get past our own entrenched standards that were no longer necessary or even helpful anymore. In the past, there may have been good reasons to require a wet signature to join a clinical study. But now that we see how that requirement is unnecessary and how it creates barriers for many people, why go back?
Consider some of the changes you had to make on the fly over the last year. Have you had similar experiences in your organization or your sector? If you’re wondering which changes to keep , here’s a process for helping you decide. Whatever the change is, compare the old way to the new way through the lens of these questions:
- Does the new way increase access to our products or services for anyone? Does the new way block access for anyone?
- Does the new way introduce any new hurdles? Does it overcome any old hurdles?
- Does the new way help you see individuals for who they are? Does it make it harder to see individuals for who they are?
These questions help initiate the process of unleashing individuality, the leadership skill that unlocks all others.
Learn more at my organization’s third annual Leadership in the Age of Personalization Virtual Summit to discover how to unleash individuality by addressing these five critical questions:
- Who do you let in?
- How do you see those you let in?
- Who do you let them be?
- What do you let them do?
- How do you let them do it?