COVID-19 has changed virtually every industry on the planet, but none more than health care.

Whether you’re part of a small non-profit organization or a large hospital network, every aspect of health care – and its management – has been ratcheted up to a new level of import and urgency, with providers facing unprecedented change.

Health services managers have had to respond quickly and carefully to address very real, life-and-death situations while balancing everything from organization design, logistics and finance to employee relations, internal and external politics, and change management on the fly.

Those who have embraced the changes have not only fared better throughout the crisis, but continue to demonstrate a willingness to evolve after it’s over. Understanding and integrating the various shifts that will continue to occur in health care will be key to success for health services managers.

These shifts include disruption and innovation, restoration of clients’ and patients’ trust, workforce resilience, continuing care for older adults, the supply chain, and inner city and rural hardships, all of which are highlighted in the Fall 2020 issue of Frontiers of Health Services Management. The publication also underscores the importance of navigating through recovery to develop stronger systems for communities, implementing changes and discovering innovations along the way.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Forward-thinking managers are well-positioned to learn from this crisis, with health care witnessing some inspiring examples of innovation in products, services, processes, and business and delivery models, often in partnership with other sectors.

From a financial aspect, history tells us that organizations that invest in innovation during a crisis outperform their peers during the recovery. But there are also many non-economic factors that continue to play an important role in health care delivery, including working collaboratively, breaking down organizational silos, overcoming institutional inertia, client and patient care, and employee well-being.

According to a recent McKinsey & Company report, health care managers who have been forced to adapt at lightning speed have a golden opportunity to continue to innovate as a result of COVID-19.

To keep pace with the ongoing evolution predicted in health care – and necessary for recovery –managers should consider assessing their organizations’ readiness to innovate at scale and whether the needed capabilities are in place. Research shows that successful innovation stems from a commitment to eight principles and practices: aspire, choose, discover, evolve, accelerate, scale, extend, and mobilize.

Here’s how health care can consider applying these essentials of innovation:

Aspire and Choose
Beyond the pressing goal of flattening the curve, new innovation aspirations need to be considered. Health care managers should choose which initiatives to prioritize and then allocate adequate resources to their pursuit.

Discover
Adapting to the “next normal” once the pandemic is under control will likely require organizations to rediscover their clients’ and patients’ needs, many of which have been reshaped by the crisis. Understanding these shifts will help organizations adapt or change their processes and procedures.

Evolve
Along with adapting and changing processes and procedures, health care managers will likely have to evolve their business models, including potentially building on or exploring new opportunities for collaboration and shared success with other stakeholders in the health care industry.

Accelerate and Scale
The unprecedented pace health care workers have been forced to adopt throughout the crisis likely won’t continue indefinitely. However, managers will still need to consider providing the tools, processes and capabilities their teams will need to continue to move quickly. Creative solutions, flexible approaches and new developments adopted during the height of the pandemic will also likely need to be scaled, both internally and across the region and health care system.

Extend
Extending efforts and advances beyond health care to external partners, including public, private and academic institutions, could go a long way to addressing gaps in capabilities and capacity in health care delivery at all levels.

Mobilize
Health care workers and manager have been mobilized in ways not seen in recent history, but now they need to be mobilized in a different way – one that recognizes the significant personal and professional challenges they’ve faced and offers inspiration, support and empowerment. Health care organizations should also consider offering employees opportunities to develop their skills, learn new tools and train the unemployed or underemployed.

Good News for Graduates

As a result of COVID-19, demand for health services managers will only increase. The pandemic has clearly highlighted the significance of the health care sector at the local, national and international levels, emphasizing the rising importance of leaders in the field. Public and private health care organizations will continue to seek to employ capable, well-trained managers. Now is your time.

To learn what opportunities exist for you in these unparalleled times – and beyond – enroll in the University of Lethbridge’s Master of Health Services Management program.


The Master of Health Services Management (MHSM) is a cohort-based, part-time program that is offered at the University of Lethbridge’s Calgary campus. It is jointly offered by the Dhillon School of Business and the Faculty of Health Sciences.