The healthcare industry was put to the test last year due to the pandemic, and a lot of innovation shone through—from new drugs and medical devices to supply-chain breakthroughs and better collaboration processes. Business leaders from all areas of the industry found new ways to accelerate growth to support the common good and generate critical revenue.
In a McKinsey survey of more than 200 organizations across industries conducted in June 2020, more than 90% of executives believed COVID-19 would fundamentally alter how they do business over the next five years. Almost as many said the crisis would have a lasting impact on their customers’ needs. However, more than three-quarters agreed that the pandemic will create significant new opportunities for growth, although this varies significantly by industry.
In a retrospective endeavor, I connected with half a dozen business leaders and entrepreneurs in the healthcare space to see what they learned and experienced over the past year:
1. T. Scott Law Sr., Founder and CEO at Zotec Partners
As COVID-19 crashed down, Zotec Partners reacted quickly and leveraged its revenue cycle management technology to build a multifaceted solution to manage testing and vaccinations across the state of Indiana. To date, this solution has facilitated more than 500,000 tests and 300,000 vaccines—creating a seamless patient experience, automating processes for providers, and delivering custom dashboards to track COVID’s spread and vaccine deployment.
“This experience has been an exercise in perseverance, and until the need no longer exists, we’ll continue to deploy innovative solutions to meet the current healthcare challenges,” Law said. “Relationships matter. Zotec values personal connections, and only because of this were we able to engineer so many impactful solutions. When it comes to business, people choose people, and that’s what makes a difference in times of crisis or calm.”
2. Seth Casden, CEO and Co-Founder at Hologenix
The main challenge facing Hologenix was the fact that its primary product, Celliant, is an ingredient in other brands’ textile products. The pandemic caused a huge disruption in the supply chain for all companies, and Hologenix was no exception. There was understandable uncertainty among its existing clients, while prospective clients generally took a wait-and-see approach. Business-as-usual just wasn’t going to work in 2020.
“Like just about everyone else, we had to implement work-from-home tools for our team members and work together to have client video meetings rather than traveling for our preferred in-person approach,” Casden recalled. “However, our most important innovation was really a shift in perspective—one internally that we made strategically and one that was external as a by-product of the pandemic—and a reflection on, and reaffirmation of, our core purpose: health and wellness. We have seen a definite consumer shift in understanding and appreciation for health and wellness in general, and the wellness benefits of Celliant, specifically.” This shift in perception has helped Hologenix affirm that its mission has always been important and is even more critical today.
3. Michel Koopman, Chief Commercial Officer at BANYAN Medical Systems
Before COVID-19, early adopters and hospital systems partnered with BANYAN Medical Systems to use its virtual clinical care platform. The challenge was keeping up with demand after the coronavirus outbreak due to the revolutionary speed with which healthcare organizations have embraced telehealth. Previously, what may have required a complicated set of approvals and a hard push across many decision makers has become an absolute “no-brainer” for our nation’s frontline workers and their patients, allowing chief nursing officers to drive technological change.
To overcome this, BANYAN sped up the launch of its next-generation platform; increased the staff at its digital hospital by 400%; ran its Telehealth Aid Program for Hospitals (TAP4H) to provide a no-investment-required emergency program for COVID-19 isolation rooms to prospective customers in need; and focused on delivering safe, efficient, patient-centric care by combining software, hardware, consulting, and staffing in one solution.
“Lean in, innovate, and explore new ways to add value to your stakeholders,” Koopman offered. “Consumers and business customers still need the same things they needed before, but they need it delivered, packaged, priced, and communicated differently. The goal is to figure this out, adjust, and run with it faster and better than others.”
4. Vatsal Ghiya, Co-Founder and CEO of Shaip
There are two main focus areas for Shaip: healthcare services and AI-enabled enterprise healthcare software. When the pandemic hit, both areas of the businesses were seriously affected. The services business dropped by about 45%, and the software business came to a screeching halt. As the incoming flow of patients decreased, the number of visiting physicians dropped—which meant the services Shaip provides to its hospitals and clinic customers also dropped. On the software side, Shaip traditionally conducted sales, development, implementation, and go-live on-site. However, all these activities had to stop due to coronavirus travel restrictions. The cherry on top? Customers and prospects reduced or stopped all nonessential capital expenditures, which brought the software business to a sudden halt.
“We were left with two alternatives: reduce our headcount and cut our losses, or pivot and convert this challenge into an opportunity,” Ghiya said. “I did not want to let go of my people and leave them high and dry during these crises. These people have been through thick and thin in our company’s making, so internally I decided to pivot. We had to find opportunities that would be valuable to the market under the pandemic situation. Also, we had to do this by leveraging our team, technology, experience, and expertise.”
Shaip started looking at where it could help other companies automate their processes and operations. Understanding that clean data was a challenge for many companies developing AI-based automation solutions in healthcare, Shaip quickly retrained its team, tweaked its transcription platform into an AI data platform, and started soliciting business from companies with AI initiatives in conversational AI and healthcare AI. Today, Shaip has grown this business into an independent unit with customers in the world’s top 10 technology companies and added about 75 people to its team. Ultimately, the year 2020 became one of its best in terms of sales volume.
5. James York, Head of Business Development at Molecular Testing Labs
The biggest challenge for Molecular Testing Labs was not the procedural and policy changes, but instead the proactive response to a widespread health crisis. When they first started hearing reports of the virus, information was scarce: It wasn’t clear what the testing needs would be, how long the virus would be around, or how many resources should be dedicated to it. York says that the one thing that remained clear as the business calculated a plan of action was its responsibility to help in any way it could.
“Even with enough supplies for testing, we faced staffing challenges. With a 36,000-square-foot facility, we had more than enough space and equipment to run large volumes of COVID specimens, but in order to meet the full testing potential, we needed to increase staffing. Over the first few months of the pandemic, we almost tripled the number of employees in the building. Finding qualified candidates with the required technical skills and experience in a short period of time was a large hurdle to overcome.” In addition to the technical staff, support staff was just as important. Molecular needed fulfillment personnel, data entry processors, client support specialists, reporting analysts, and claim processing staff to make sure it could adequately support the volume.
“These tough lessons have shown the industry just how important it is to create access to healthcare that reduces strain on the existing infrastructures while increasing the availability of care,” York added. “It’s important to explore new ideas and continue to push the boundaries of innovation in healthcare. Solutions that may seem like a novelty could someday be an essential. Invest in technology and your staff and continue to advocate for accessible and transparent healthcare.”
6. Nick Hoffmeyer, VP of Marketing at Broda
During the pandemic, providing essential medical equipment to one of the highest at-risk populations of customers in long-term care was exceptionally difficult for Broda, as it needed to overcome myriad challenges: managing labor capacity, supply chain complications, and new product requirements; protecting employee health and morale; transitioning to remote work; overcoming distribution partner obstacles; and navigating post-sale support (to name but a few). Ultimately, this disruption forced Broda to focus on shoring up its business foundation, fostering resilience, dedicating time for deep learning, and positioning itself for long-term growth.
“The pandemic was a good reminder of what truly is important in life and business,” Hoffmeyer said. He added that the crisis served as a reminder “to adapt and find ways to bridge divides—to work together as a company internally and within the long-term care industry in this challenging time. The health and safety of our customers, employees, partners, and all their families are paramount, and this has broadened our outlook beyond finite business objectives.”
He added that putting the company workforce’s health, wellness, and engagement at the forefront positions Broda to weather the pandemic and any future economic downturns, and more importantly, to better further its mission to make care comfortable.