Two familiar voices in healthcare came together for a deep dive on trending 2021 topics. Scott Becker, Publisher and Founder of Becker’s Healthcare, joined host Bill Russell to discuss the healthcare podcast landscape, industry events, successful leadership, and more.
According to Becker, the U.S. health system can be both magnificent and hold significant challenges. Serving 330 million people—the third-largest country after India and China—there are many dichotomies and access issues.
Becker identified coverage-for-all as a hot button issue. No matter the political side, Becker expressed how most can see the importance of healthcare coverage for the entire population. However, this is not the biggest problem, as only 9%, (or 30 million people) lack coverage, according to Beckers.
Instead, access is becoming increasingly challenging, especially with an aging population. Shortages of doctors and nurses further complicate the problem. But in Washington D.C., these are not popular issues.
“They [D.C. politicians] talk about all kinds of things that are lightning rods for their own side of the political table. They don’t talk about solving problems,” he said.
While technology helps to some degree, there need to be strides in training doctors more easily.
“Over the years, we’ve imported a lot of doctors. We still need to do that. But we all know that that’s a net zero-sum game, because it’s not helping the rest of the world. We’ve got to figure out a way to increase the pool of doctors,” he explained.
Creating a more accessible path for becoming a care provider while still maintaining rigorous standards will help the labor shortage issue. According to Becker, the healthcare industry needs to make it more attractive to future clinicians.
“We’ve got to figure out the labor shortage issue as much as all of these political issues. They are fun because they get votes, but solving problems is hard. And there’s big problems to solve,” he said.
Another significant issue is the quality of care. According to Becker, the cost structure cannot change without also improving the labor pool.
The healthcare industry has not progressed in its transition from sick care to a health focus, according to Becker. Part of this change requires healthcare pushing and encouraging healthy lifestyles.
“It’s too early to give up on people...Because we know in the long run, as we get older, we believe it so much more. Health is the number one asset that you could have,” he said.
According to Becker, people can fail to realize the importance of health until later in life, and this should be a conversation at the national level. However, politicians also fail to use their pulpit to bring awareness and solutions to the matter.
Despite progress in digital acceleration during the pandemic, the evolving challenge is now care navigation, Becker explained. In fact, patients still face significant hurdles to move forward on their care journey, especially regarding identifying and communicating with their doctors and specialists.
Becker expressed his uncertainty of how much of healthcare will shift to the at-home model. He speculated that this may just be a new wave of home health, but also considered it could be a great opportunity with the right technology and care.
“It’s asset-light. It’s viewed as the gold mine. Some of these things will pop become used by every system; others won’t. But money is going to keep pouring into it,” he said.
As hospitals shift to hospitals within the home, Becker explained the value in moving towards asset-light models. Hospital technology allows this shift, as it creates an integrated model. Therefore, health systems could save money on campuses and operating costs.
In the digital health world, every health system should look towards funding this future, according to Becker.
“Hospitals are trying to figure out to compete against the rest of the world that’s moved towards an asset-light model where they’re an asset-heavy model,” he explained.
Large companies like Amazon, CVS, Walmart, and Teladoc are entering the healthcare industry. According to Becker, these new entrants pose a threat to the incumbents and established health systems.
For more serious health issues, Becker explained that patients are more likely to seek care at a health system, due to the highly trained care providers. However, according to Becker, the tech entrants hold key factors that will make them attractive to consumers.
“There’s still built-in advantages for the health systems, but you can’t underrate the scale, the assets, the money, the technology that Amazon, CVS, and Optum have,” he said.
This does not eliminate the difference in the depth of care. According to Becker, people connect quality care to their health system, rather a company in their community like CVS. But unlike health systems, new entrants do no face the real estate and operating costs that challenge healthcare.
In the end, the addition of new entrants will either be a fatal flaw for health systems or their greatest advantage, Becker said. While health systems can take care of mass amounts of people and possess great depths of talent, new entrants have their own advantages.
“The great issue will be whether these companies put the resources in to make themselves great providers,” he explained.
Becker warned against writing off the potential of these competitors. Though time will expose the success of their movement, being caught unaware is not a risk health leaders should be willing to take.
“You cannot not take them seriously,” he said.
According to Becker, successful CEOs can prioritize, build relationships and teams, stay disciplined, and be well-liked within their organization.
Becker believed these leaders can understand a level of complexity that goes beyond the typical healthcare manager. Instead, a CEO or CIO must hold a high level of emotional maturity and intelligence. There is a centeredness and consistency needed for great leaders.
At Becker’s Conference, Becker has met many United States presidents, celebrities, and other high-profile people; U.S. presidents that he has met include Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. However, the person identifies as the most informed politician on healthcare matters is not a president, but former Secretary of State and presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has the greatest grasp compared to the three presidents.
“One of the great things about healthcare is that every single one of us, aside from whether we’re involved in the healthcare industry or not, is a consumer. So you can’t really fool anybody about the healthcare system. At least anybody that’s listening or trying to pay attention because we’re all consumers as well,” he said.
However, Becker believes that these presidents have a grasp on health issues and that many other people do as well, more so than Becker himself.
After two-and-a-half years, Becker’s Healthcare Podcast numbers are increasing since the beginning of the pandemic. With growing popularity, the number of shows began doubling and tripling, according to Becker. At one point, they were producing more than ten shows per week.
With conferences and in-person meetings canceled, Becker’s Healthcare had time to invest time into covering healthcare information for COVID-19 and digital transformation.
While the first year of podcasts averaged 143 downloads per month, it is increasing to 250,000 as of last month.