HBI Deals+Insights / News

Covid fears being replaced by familiar worries


As the threat posed by Covid largely recedes in most European countries and beyond, the collective attention of those working in healthcare services has returned to the familiar challenges which never went away, but were masked by the more immediate and headline-grabbing threat of the pandemic. Three immediately spring to mind following HBI 2022 this week: 1) Finances, and the threat of recession. 2) Where to find staff, and how to retain them. 3) The rise of the importance of the patient experience.

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When it comes to recession, pretty much everyone is in agreement that there will be one, although it will be an unusual one with high levels of inflation and low unemployment. But it remains unclear how badly healthcare services will be affected as healthcare is – for the most part – a recession-proof sector. Some went so far as to claim that inflationary pressures won’t even hit margins very much as demand for healthcare is price insensitive enough that providers will be able to pass on the rise in costs to payors. However, others were less optimistic, saying that even if providers are able to pass on cost increases there will be a time-lag before they are able to do so and so margins will inevitably be hit, at least in the short-term.

On the issue of staffing, no one had a magic bullet. What was clear was that you can’t simply throw money at the problem. Sufficiently high wages will get people through the door to fill your vacancies, but it won’t get them to sign on the dotted line. More creative thinking to become an employer of choice – having an attractive brand, better working conditions, bolder perks, a clear training pathway – all matter. No one wanted to be reliant on agency staff even if it meant going down the visa routes. And paying ‘Monopoly money’ signing on fees doesn’t work either. Workers collect their $200 (and then some) at the beginning of the game then look for somewhere else to go.

The final pervasive theme was patient experience and many of those attending the conference put this at the heart of the clinic of the future, and training for the next generation. It is no longer enough to have shiny chrome coffee machines and fabulous faux-leather chairs in the waiting rooms. In this post-Covid era, people want to feel safe first and foremost, and looked after second, and this means empathised with and informed to the extent they feel they have a real say in their patient pathway. Patients are healthcare consumers, and the internet is providing them with any number of guides through review sites and social media posts about which business is best placed to meet their needs.

HBI members can read our top twenty takeaways from HBI 2022 here.

We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to David Farbrother or call 0207 183 3779.