As the healthcare industry grapples with a massive labor shortage, access to care will be a major concern for consumers and employers five years from now, an industry expert predicts.
“You have 30 percent of the nurses that are retiring, leaving that aren’t going to be there,” said Joan Harvey, president of Care Solutions at Evernorth, a subsidiary of Cigna. “There is a minimum of child psychiatrists, you can go down the line. I think we’re going to fight this as an industry, as a country.”
Harvey made the comments Tuesday at a panel at HLTH conference in Las Vegas. She said she’s never seen the affordability problem as prevalent in health care as it is now.
“I don’t know that America has ever gone through a period where they can’t just go in and find a doctor or ask for surgery, sign up and two weeks later have surgery or ask for access to certain specialty care providers,” she said in an interview . “We are seeing a huge reduction in our healthcare assets around the world. It’s not just in America.”
To combat this problem, she emphasized the importance of a universal model of care that uses both in-person and virtual care. Healthcare providers should use virtual care when they can so that 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 monitoring, or getting an annual medical exam, or just wanting to renew your prescriptions, we can use the technology in a much different way. So I think bringing together the technology, the analytics and then the capabilities in an omnichannel way is going to be really important to be able to expand the use of really strong healthcare professionals for these critical cares that they’re going to need in the future.”
That access issue is why Evernorth’s partnership with primary care provider VillageMD is vital, Harvey said. Walgreens-backed Boots Alliance VillageMD recently announced plans to purchase Summit Health-CityMD for $8.9 billion, which includes investments from Walgreens and Evernorth. As a result, Evernorth will become a minority owner in VillageMD.
“With VillageMD, we know you will need inpatient personal care,” she said. “That’s why we want to have a strategic partnership around 260 sites in America.”
Harvey added that these kinds of partnerships with VillageMD and Walgreens will be necessary to solve the health care affordability problem.
“I think as networks evolve and this issue of access … becomes more important, I think you’re going to be looking at diverse ways to deliver care,” she said. “That’s why we love partnering with VillageMD. We also work with Walgreens from a pharmacy perspective, and hey, what better way to combine the pharmacy benefits that the consumer needs with your medical care that you need… you can’t solve the problem without a partnership. “
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