Communities across the world, including here in Central New York, watched health systems be strained and pushed to the limit over the past year. As much as this was a tragedy, it was also a learning opportunity for so many organizations — in the health-care industry and beyond.
This past year affirmed the need for a new way to deliver services: everything from food delivery to event planning to health-care services for our senior population. Some organizations have figured out how to not only maintain services while being fiscally responsible, but also thrive as they shift their deliveries models.
PACE is the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, and locally, it is part of the Loretto system of care. PACE-CNY was already expanding at a rapid rate, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. But the ways we saw our health-care delivery shift during the pandemic — and during the “new normal” that we are seeing now — hold lessons that we believe can help any business that delivers services or products.
• Service when they need it: Some businesses saw the need for their services dwindle as the pandemic hit. Others saw demand stay stable, and others had customer need grow significantly. No matter how the customer need evolves, businesses must be constantly evaluating and adapting to what their consumers want.
The population that PACE-CNY serves was hit hard — arguably hardest — by the pandemic. Not just by the virus itself, but also by the consequences of the pandemic: isolation, inability to participate in activities or go to doctors’ offices for medical appointments, and more. So, even when our program participants couldn’t come to our day-center locations, we had to get creative with new ways to maintain, and even expand, the frequency with which our services were needed.
In health care and several other industries, this is where we saw virtual technology shift into high gear. For us, it meant expanding our telehealth services. We were fortunate to have already foreseen this need and established the foundation to support telehealth. So, when an urgent need arose, we simply needed to expand, not create. If your business hasn’t already started to anticipate and establish new ways of delivering your products or services whenever your consumers might need them, the time to start is now.
• Service where they need it: Many businesses also saw the shift to more of our lives happening at home — work, school, online shopping, food delivery, virtual family gatherings, watching newly released movies, and more. Some of that was due to safety concerns, but a significant portion of the population is choosing to stay at home, even as the world reopens. So, it was important for businesses to not only adapt to the short-term shift, but also to consider how the investment in that short-term shift could benefit the business and its consumers in the long-term.
It is with that perspective that PACE-CNY launched our mobile medical teams to safely provide care in a participant’s home. As a business, we saw this new concept of mobile teams could continue meeting the needs of our consumers, while promoting safety and maintaining jobs for our staff.
Staff still reported to work in a safe and social-distant manner to either provide telehealth services from the PACE-CNY Center, or to meet in the morning and then deploy to their mobile units.
Additional drivers and skilled nurses were also needed to launch and keep these new services, and it’s safe to predict that demand for this type of health-care worker will be remain high in the foreseeable future.
• Service how they need it: Now that you’ve focused on when and where your consumers need your products and services, it’s important to also think about everything else going on in their lives that may not be directly related to your business — but that your business could help to address for them. Consider how your company fits in with community-based organizations.
For those who have been caring for their loved ones while working from home, returning to work may mean that they will no longer be able to provide the same level of care. At PACE-CNY, we evolved our at-home care services and integrated other services and organizations in Central New York to help fill the void.
If this approach to evolving your business model is done right, your organization can maximize effectiveness and efficiency, while creating more jobs and reaching more people. Every change in consumer demand, every challenge, truly gives us an opportunity to create something better.
For example, we are seeing our program participants’ different preferences for in-person services at the Day Center versus mobile/telehealth services in the home as a good thing, because it allows PACE-CNY to meet the growing demand without being constrained by the capacity of our physical buildings.
The vision for PACE is to build a sustainable system for our aging population to live independently and autonomously, or at a nursing home when needed, while having access to resources at a cost that’s affordable and sustainable. That’s an ambitious vision but also a flexible vision. This is what allowed PACE-CNY to quickly shift our business model in a way that not only continued to align with our vision, but also helped us to better achieve it.
I encourage all organizations to stop and reflect on their vision. Tear down the current boundaries of “how” you are working to accomplish that vision and think about new ways to achieve it through the perspective of what consumers are demanding right now — as well as how you believe their demands might evolve in the future.
Stephanie Button is vice president at PACE-CNY.