The COVID-19 pandemic has made permanent changes in how we go about every single aspect of our lives. Some of these changes we won’t know for months, or years to come but when it comes to healthcare some of those changes are already coming to light.
In the final part of our exclusive six-part series, UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s and MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center talk about the future of healthcare an what you might be seeing thee next time you visit the doctor.
Lynn Wold is the CEO of UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s, he has watched the organization change over the past 7 months.
We have permanently taken a little shift on our axis and we will never be exactly what we were before.
The last 6 months have changed nearly every aspect of healthcare and Wold knows the importance of communication. “It’s about communication. What worked well for the staff and the caregivers and if they said, that didn’t really work well, we would prefer this, we think you should try this going forward, we would listen and make those adjustments.”
Many of the changes are It’s very situational. I don’t think you can really throw a blanket on it and say this is the only way we are going to do it. Again, we’ve learned from our initial 4-5 week run with this.
Much like our business meetings even medicine has gone online, Wold believes telemedicine will change the healthcare industry. “I think the single biggest piece of that is virtual medicine. This was something that was kind of on the cusp of being more of a day-to-day reality but we have proven through this pandemic that you can receive medical care virtually with telemedicine, e-visits, connect with your provider and still maintain your health and receive care through your providers.”
Inside and out of the hospital, telemedicine has made its place. Chad Markham the COO of UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s has seen the shift to telemedicine fist hand.
I think we will see a lot more telemedicine As well. as something we have inside the hospital, we never really had before so physicians can round on patients inside the hospital using a Tele-monitor. And then I think in the public too. Instead of going into urgent care
Visitor access within the hospitals stopped during COVID-19, which UnityPoint Health says could lead to permanent changes. Wold believes that this change will be long-lasting.
“I do believe that the number of folks and the amount of foot traffic that we will allow through our care facilities will be much less in the future.”
Right now, elective surgeries and nonemergent visits are starting back up but even that is slow. Wold says healthcare centers are a safe place, even amid the pandemic.
“We need to gain confidence that people can come to their healthcare providers, clinics, surgery centers, hospitals and it’s safe,” he said. “It’s a safe environment.”
Lessons weren’t only learned in clinical care but also emotional care. Susan Unger, President of the St. Luke’s Foundation has seen some of those lessons firsthand.
“I think the biggest lessons that we’ve learned are when to follow your heart and when to follow your head,” she said. “And those are hard when you are on the front line.
“We heard some pretty difficult stories that it is very hard when you have two patients you are taking care of and you know somebody might not make it and you know another one will, and learning how to help those team members. I think the other lesson was that the work that we do every day all year is what got us through. To be able to do what we do and just, we were there. Everybody was there.”