Note: This article was originally published on LinkedIn as a summary of ACHE of Massachusetts’ inaugural “Virtual After 5” event. Kathy Sucich is communications chair of the organization.

On Wednesday, May 27th, several Massachusetts healthcare leaders participated in ACHE of Massachusetts’ first “Virtual After 5” event. This event provided a friendly, low-key way for leaders to catch up with each other and share how their organizations have been faring over the last several months. The COVID-19 pandemic was obviously top of mind for attendees, and they shared lessons learned during this time of crisis. Here are some of the most important learnings that were shared between attendees.

Telehealth is (hopefully) here to stay

Over the past few months, Massachusetts hospitals have gone from essentially zero telehealth visits to nearly all physician appointments being conducted online. Patients are largely satisfied with this new way of connecting to their physicians, with one leader reporting his organization’s patient satisfaction scores going up as a result. Experts anticipate that while many visits will migrate back to in-person once the pandemic has waned, many will continue virtually. However, it will also be important for insurance companies and Medicare/Medicaid to continue to pay for visits even after the pandemic is over. It will be up to healthcare leaders to advocate for that.

Clear communication and transparency are important

During a pandemic, people are scared. And front-line workers, who face COVID-19 every day, want to feel safe for their health and for their family’s health. That’s why healthcare leaders expressed that it’s important to make sure employees feel listened to, and to act on what their employees are expressing to them. It’s also important for hospitals to be transparent as to why they have certain policies so that employees understand the rationale and why certain decisions are being made.

Photo courtesy of ACHE of Massachusetts

Going into surge mode is easier than coming out

Now that healthcare organizations are starting to come out of surge mode, leaders are finding that this process can be harder than the process of going into it. When hospitals were going into surge mode, there was one goal that everyone could mobilize behind. However, coming out, there are many different aspects to consider when it comes to staff, safety, and patients. This phase of the pandemic may prove to be most challenging to hospitals and health systems.

Bright spots during trying times

“Never let a crisis go to waste.” Despite the challenging months for healthcare leaders, there were some positive things to come out of the crisis. Leaders expressed that the COVID-19 pandemic did help them to notice the stars or unsung heroes in their organization. They also expressed that the pressing need to change their ways of doing business led them to accomplish in 3-4 weeks what would under normal circumstances take 3-4 years to change, particularly with telehealth.

ACHE of Massachusetts has many virtual events planned over the next several months, including more “Virtual After 5” get-togethers. Please learn more at https://www.massache.org/events/ and feel free to join us!

Kathy Sucich
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