I have worked as a leader in healthcare for the past 20 years, and these past 12 months have been the most difficult of my career. When 2020 began I was working in a health system as a vice president overseeing quality, patient safety, and infection control. As many of you can relate, this was not an easy position during those first few months. There were so many unknowns and changes in guidance surrounding best practices managing this pandemic, it felt as though we were adjusting protocols and procedures for staff daily. I honestly don’t know how clinicians at the bedside managed as well as they did. Somehow, they got through the initial waves of confusion and were able to provide amazing care throughout one of the most chaotic times in our history.

Through all the tragedy, we have also seen the beginnings of a new healthcare system in this country, one that promotes:

  • Wide-scale adoption of telemedicine and virtual health
  • Collaboration between all private and public sectors of healthcare
  • Effective and safe adoption of new science
  • Reduction in health disparities
  • Public health

I truly believe that when the dust settles, and once we have been able to mourn all of the losses our country has suffered, we will see that this pandemic has been a catalyst for positive change within our industry.

The pandemic has also been a catalyst for me in my career. I have made the difficult decision to leave the provider side of healthcare, not because it has become too difficult, but because I am excited about the changes I have started to see. I therefore sought to be a part of a team that helps organizations lead the way and maximize opportunities to succeed in this new delivery system.

As a strong believer in getting the voice of the customer, and to make sure I wasn’t totally off base, I have spent the past four months reaching out to healthcare leaders within the region. I was hoping to get a sense of how things are going and ask what opportunities they see coming out of this pandemic. Having spoken with physicians, nurses, quality professionals and C-suite leaders in over 30 organizations, I’ve made some initial observations.

The good news is most are seeing a slowdown in COVID-19 admissions and overall cases within their communities. These leaders seemed to be optimistic about the future and are dusting off some of the initiatives they put on hold when the pandemic hit. This is a reason for all of us to be optimistic about our industry, and I for one am very encouraged.

One difference I did see in the responses is that while some leaders are simply hoping to get back to the status quo of the days prior to the pandemic, others are planning for how they will come out of this better than before. I dug a little deeper to identify traits of these organizations, which I believe will thrive in the future, and found they include:

  • Clear and well communicated strategic plans and objectives
  • Robust systems and a leadership structure in place that helps manage the unexpected
  • A culture of resilience and accountability that is fair and transparent
  • Continuous learning from mistakes and focused on improvement, not punishment

I believe all organizations should be assessing where they currently stand with each of these traits and start planning to strengthen any gaps. This will allow them to not only survive, but to thrive in what will surely be a very different environment post-pandemic.

For me, this validates that all the work I have done over the years in areas like Lean Six Sigma, Just Culture, High Reliability, patient-centered care and provider engagement. My experiences have prepared me for my next professional journey, and I cannot wait.

Want to learn more about the questions and considerations that come with reopening in a post-COVID world? Click here to read our series, Returning to ‘Normal’ After COVID-19,

About the Author
Chris Rees

Chris Rees, Principal, joined KCG in the fall of 2020. He has over 20 years of experience driving change within the healthcare industry. His experience as a senior leader and project manager has led to proven results in the effective coordination of highly skilled professionals to meet organizations needs and objectives.

Prior to supporting KCG, Rees served five years as the vice president of transformation for Tidelands Health, a two-hospital community health system on the coast of South Carolina. In this role, Mr. Rees provided support and leadership in the areas of quality, patient safety, performance improvement, service and physician engagement. Prior to joining Tidelands Health, he held numerous leadership roles, including director of quality, at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Rees earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Kentucky and master’s degrees in business administration and health services administration at Xavier University in Ohio. He is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and President Elect of the South Carolina chapter of the ACHE. He is a Six Sigma master black belt and a certified Just Culture champion.