As the healthcare industry battles a major workforce shortage, access to care will be of significant concern for consumers and employers five years from now, one industry expert predicts.
“You have 30% of your nursing population retiring, quitting, who are not going to be there,” said Joan Harvey, president of care solutions at Evernorth, a subsidiary of Cigna. “There are minimal childhood psychiatrists, you can go down the line. I think we’re going to be grappling with this as an industry, as a country.”
Harvey made these comments Tuesday on a panel at the HLTH conference in Las Vegas. She said she has not seen the issue of accessibility so prevalent in healthcare as it is now.
“I don’t know that America has ever been through a period where they can’t just walk in and get a doctor or they want to have a surgery, they sign up and in two weeks they have a surgery, or they want access to certain specialty care providers,” she said in an interview. “We’re seeing tremendous reduction of our healthcare professional assets around the world. It’s not just in America.”
To combat this issue, Harvey stressed the importance of an omnichannel care model that leverages both in-person and virtual care. Healthcare providers should use virtual care when they can so in-person care can be available when people really need it.
“When something critical happens, you’re going to need face-to-face care,” she said. “At some point people are going to need it. But if you’re just doing monitoring, or you’re getting an annual physical or you just want to renew your prescriptions, we can use technology in a much different way. So I think bringing technology, analytics and then the capabilities together in an omnichannel fashion is going to be really important so we can extend the use of really strong healthcare professionals for that critical care that they’re going to need in the future.”
This issue with access is why Evernorth’s partnership with primary care provider VillageMD is vital, Harvey said. Walgreens Boots Alliance-backed VillageMD recently announced plans to purchase Summit Health-CityMD for $8.9 billion, which included investments from Walgreens and Evernorth. As a result, Evernorth will become a minority owner in VillageMD.
“With VillageMD, we know that you’re going to need inpatient personal care,” she said. “That’s why we want to have a strategic partnership around 260 sites out there in America.”
Harvey added that these kinds of partnerships with VillageMD and Walgreens will be necessary to solve the problem of accessibility in healthcare.
“I think as networks evolve and this access issue … becomes more and more prominent, I think you’re going to look at diversified ways to provide care,” she said. “So that’s why we love the partnership with VillageMD. We also work with Walgreens from a pharmacy perspective, and hey, what better way to align pharmacy benefits that a consumer needs with your medical care that you need … you can’t solve the problem without partnerships.”
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