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The Only Way Out Is Through: Looking Back on a Disrupted and Disruptive Year

I am a planner. 

This might be why my favorite book is The Art of the Long View. It’s the story of a Royal Dutch Shell strategy team in the late sixties. They were trying to employ scenario planning in advance of a shock to the oil system they knew would come eventually (but not when, why or how). For 72 hours, they locked the management team away, playing the “what if” game and working through the shock and emotions associated with each hypothetical scenario until they could calmly plan. Fast forward to 1973 when the first shock to the system actually came, and Royal Dutch Shell hit play on their carefully-developed strategy while competitors were still reeling. They went from weak sixth to strong second in their market as a result.

I very much doubt that when the pandemic hit, any of us adjusted with Shell’s ease and rapidity. In fact, there’s probably not a single person on the planet who isn’t looking back at the arc of 2020 and thinking, “Wow,” as they contemplate a year of disruption and adaptation.

Nevertheless, it’s still worthwhile to look back and take stock of what we learned in a year like no other in recent memory.

When I took the helm as CEO of Welkin in February, my initial plan was to realize the original vision of our team: delivering a care management platform for conditions like diabetes, hypertension, mental health to name a few that require longitudinal care. Our goals were clear:

  • Make clinicians more effective and efficient 
  • Create flexibility to adapt to a practice’s needs in a way that EMRs don’t
  • Overcome the typical EMR’s information overload and click fatigue

With our new team in place and through customer feedback, it became clear to us that it was time to make some substantial changes to our platform to help customers scale more effectively. We committed to completely rewriting and overhauling the entire platform, all the while still serving our customers. 

But then, of course, the pandemic. 

And while a year like this might generally be the right time for other industries interested in a platform rebuild, we had to move carefully given our customer base — all clinicians and care teams — has been going flat out, all hands on deck, to manage this ongoing public health emergency.

Knowing they were unable to see patients in person, we prioritized integrating as many tools that could facilitated seamless care as possible, from HIPAA-compliant systems for communication, e-Prescribe to get a medication order electronically to the pharmacy and e-Signature with DocuSign for consent forms to analytics to see what’s working and report out. 

I’m proud we were able to weave in pandemic-relevant capability – and I’m proud that in 2021, we’ll have a brand-new platform that delivers on our core mission: delivering patient-centric care. 

COVID-19 has reinforced a real truth for me: the best-laid plans can and will go out the window and you still have to figure it out. Our path through was simple: work very closely with customers and adjust what we could to help them with unforeseen emerging challenges. We let go of business as usual, shifted into overdrive, embraced late nights, and continued to get it done. Fortunately, our passion has carried us through.

All of us have heard people talk about “getting back to normal when this is over” – but for healthcare, this is the beginning. We’re planning for a future of healthcare that’s inevitable: rethinking how care is delivered while longitudinal care for chronic conditions becomes the norm, not the exception. In fact, it’s already happening; we see it with musculoskeletal practices spinning out of hospitals and going independent. Working toward that future is critical, especially as COVID-19 emerges from the acute care phase and we collectively turn to caring for the “long-haulers” with chronic conditions.

No matter what, the lesson from COVID-19 and a tumultuous 2020 is this: the only way out – and into a brighter tomorrow — is through. And that’s what we’ll continue to do.

 

About the Author: 

Michelle Pampin is the CEO of Welkin Health, a Care Management platform focused on improving health outcomes for people living with chronic diseases. Michelle is an accomplished leader, with a track record of advancing high-growth Silicon Valley software companies. Michelle speaks three languages: Spanish, French and Portuguese. When she’s not busy leading Welkin, she is busy staying active with her Samoyed, Avi. 

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