Posted: 29 Sep. 2020 10 min. read

Critical conversations in healthcare: Finding opportunity in change

In just a few months, modern healthcare has experienced a profound disruption across the globe. While there’s a desire to get ‘back to normal,’ a number of aspects around the way healthcare has historically operated have left us vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19 and in need of critical change.

Deloitte has developed a series of critical conversations designed to explore the opportunities that exist within our healthcare system and identify how we might achieve greater integration across the sector by combining virtual capability with face-to-face care. 

This blog explores a conversation around strategic horizons and responses with Deloitte’s Asia-Pacific Healthcare Leader, Dr. Rohan Hammett (RH), our Global Chief Strategy Officer, John Meacock (JM), our Global Healthcare Leader, Dr Stephanie Allen (SA) and Group CEO of St Vincent’s Health NSW, Toby Hall (TH) who teamed up to discuss the new strategic landscape and how we might adapt to these changes going forward. 

JM: The COVID-19 pandemic has really exposed the strengths and weaknesses of companies, countries, industries and leaders alike. It has pushed us to reflect on what we can change to better prepare consumers for the new world. Things like digitisation, cloud capability, business model transformation and direct-to-consumer technologies will be key in this space, as will the combination of people, process and technology in strengthening the resilience of businesses. 

RH: The concept of resilience is interesting, particularly in the private sector. Toby, how has St. Vincent’s responded effectively to the pandemic? 

TH: One of the first things we did at St Vincent's was develop a crisis response plan. We knew something was going to happen and wanted to manage and work through the process as a team. We’ve been extremely lucky in terms of not having any private cases in our aged care business. While some of that might be down to chance, we were proactive in our site management, ensuring we had strong oversight of who could access the premises and when. We also implemented measurable contact control models to identify any risks. Our plan was clear, but testing it again and again is what will make it applicable and scalable long-term. 

RH: These shifts brought to light the need for new agile health systems. How realistic do you think it is to continue in this direction? Do you think we’ll go back to the way we were? 

TH: It’s been eye-opening to see how well we’ve adapted to new virtual behaviours. People will tell you the health system is traditionally hard to change, but what we’ve observed is quite the opposite. We can be agile when we need to be. These new healthcare pathways have opened up a range of services almost overnight, allowing consumers ease of access to high quality care. The impact is incredible. 

RH: Steph, how does Toby’s experience at St Vincent's align with what you're seeing in other healthcare systems around the world? 

SA: Leading hospital providers around the world are doing what Toby and St Vincent's are doing – pivoting quickly to digital connectivity between clinicians and patients. Unfortunately, they’ve also recognised it’s not a sustainable or a scalable solution. Instead, they are looking at the value of new healthcare pathways and ways in which they might fit into more holistic models of care. 

RH:  And these pathways have changed the healthcare landscape for the foreseeable future.    

SA: Absolutely. Geography is no longer a constraint and patients don’t need to be present at consultations. This makes them much more accessible, even for things like second opinion services or specialist support. It’s becoming clearer that quality of care is superior when we use a hybrid model. No one is saying it needs to be face-to-face or completely virtual, it just needs to be flexible and adaptable to a patient’s needs over time. 

RH:  There’s talk about how these changes can also be seen in the mental health space, do you agree?  

SA: I do. One of the interesting things about mental health is that before the pandemic, our health care system spent about 3% of our budget on mental health support, which is interesting\, given that one in four of us will experience some form of mental illness throughout our lifetime.

Despite this fact, there is still a lack of accessibility to psychologists, psychiatrists and cognitive behavioural workers all over the world. COVID-19 has catalysed some significant cultural changes in this space, prompting people to recognise the importance of these services. These new healthcare pathways are allowing patients access to some of the best psychiatrists in the country, supporting clinicians on the ground and providing treatment in local communities. It is an important step we need to take. 

TH: I agree. We’re already starting to see some of that play out when you look at the eruption of meditation tools and stress reduction apps on the internet. We can embrace that. COVID-19 has forced people to look at things differently and we’re at the precipice of doing more in good unique and significant ways. 

JM: We need to maintain our commitment to continue this journey and accelerate the pace of change within the healthcare sector. We’ve the opportunity to relaunch and come out better and stronger in time, but courageous leadership by example is paramount. 

This interview was adapted from the inaugural session of Deloitte’s, Reimagining Healthcare Models of the Future series. To learn more about the series or to register your interest, please visit https://www2.deloitte.com/au/en/pages/life-sciences-and-healthcare/solutions/reimagining-healthcare-models-of-future.html.

More about the authors

Dr. Stephanie Allen

Dr. Stephanie Allen

Global Healthcare Leader

Dr Stephanie Allen is the Deloitte Global Healthcare Leader. Deloitte has the largest professional services health care practice in the world. Deloitte has been independently recognised for its global and holistic approach to health care analytics to deliver new insights, for the way in which it is integrating exponential technologies to drive sustainable quality and cost improvements, and for its extensive clinical expertise working on contemporary models of care. Stephanie also leads the Health & Human Services Practice for Australia and is a consulting partner with over 25 years’ extensive experience in health care in both the UK and Australia. Stephanie has worked closely with eminent health and research institutions on complex planning, clinical, financial and operational transformation programs and on large scale technology implementations. She has served on a number of Health Care Boards and is passionate about the role of health care as an economic driver of prosperity, as a magnet for research and talent, and in supporting people to lead the lives they value.

John Meacock

John Meacock

Chief Strategy Officer

John Meacock is the Global Chief Strategy Officer for Deloitte and a member of Deloitte's Global Executive. John is responsible for Strategy and Innovation across the Deloitte Global network. John’s role includes developing the Global Organization’s strategy, charting the course for the transformation of the organization to new business models and new ways of servicing clients and ensuring that Deloitte continues to be the World’s leading Professional Services Firm. As part of this, he oversees the organization’s response to Industry 4.0 and the changing environment due to competition, regulation and new technologies. Prior to this role, he was the Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) for Deloitte Australia and the Asia Pacific region. As CSO for the Asia Pacific region, John was responsible for developing plans for future growth and structure of the region. Appointed as Deputy-Chairman of Deloitte’s Global Board in 2016, John’s role was to provide corporate governance advice, and to represent the Australian firm at the Global forum. John was also a member of the Global Board’s Composition and Risk Committees. The youngest of four brothers, John was born in Bruce Rock, Western Australia. He has two children. John has an appreciation for art and is the former Independent Chairman for The Brett Whiteley Foundation.

Dr. Rohan Hammett

Dr. Rohan Hammett

Asia Pacific Healthcare Leader

Rohan was formerly a Consultant Physician in Gastroenterology with over 25 years of experience as a clinician, a health system manager and a government regulator. He has worked in the Australian, US, and UK health systems and led global cooperation initiatives throughout Asia, Europe, and North America. Rohan has previously led major clinical redesign and organisational transformation processes while working as Director of Statewide Improvement Programs at the NSW Institute of Clinical Excellence and a Deputy Director General for the NSW Ministry of Health. He was previously the head of Australia’s Medicines and Medical Devices Regulatory and the Therapeutic Goods Administration, where he drove a program of regulatory reform and global regulatory harmonisation.