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Twenty things that we learned at HBI 2022

HBI 2022, the year’s largest CxO-level for-profit healthcare services conference, took place in central London this week. The conference stages and the floor were awash with interesting ideas, staggering statistics, suggestions for building a better business and the buzz of new friendships being formed. As always, there were new things to learn. Here are twenty of our top take aways from this year’s event.

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1. Staffing is a problem everywhere. There is a global war for talent but while salaries do matter, they are the gateway to recruitment, and not sufficient on their own. Become an employer of choice, brand recognition, training programmes and defined career progression, and perks of the job (healthcare and more) are what usually seal a deal, and aid retention. Signing on fees will often bring people in – but they won’t make them stay.

2. Agency staff are generally not seen as the answer to the problem. With a high cost and no real commitment to the job, many at HBI told us they would rather use any other resource available (including going down the visa route) than routinely rely on agencies.

3. There is an expectation of a global recession. This was shared by the majority of those who attended. There is less agreement on how deep it will be and how it will impact the healthcare sector.

4. Hot sectors include dentistry, diagnostics, and outpatient services.

5. There is a sector-wide appreciation that patient experience increasingly matters – and in the post-covid era it has transformed from simply having plush offices and fancy coffee machines to teaching staff to treat patients with empathy and keeping them informed and involving them in the decision-making process. This is important for the health of the patient, but also for the health of your business given increasing transparency, and the ubiquity of social media and review sites.

6. Fertility has proved to be particularly resilient to Covid, and the general sense of economic gloom. Platforms have now reached sufficient size that we are seeing a lot of new players in the market, and heavy hitting investors like CVC taking an interest. Consolidation, however, is pushing multiples up and leading the founders of some smaller clinics to have unrealistic expectations about the value of their ‘golden egg’.

7. Platforms are on the rise. But being big alone does not make you a platform.

8. The clinic of the future will have fluid boundaries; a lot more will be done at home, a lot more small satellite clinics will be deployed as a result and a lot more of the interaction between patient and healthcare professionals will happen asynchronously. There will therefore be less staff interaction which means that where there is human contact, those touch points will matter more.

9. Moreover, there is an inevitable trade-off between access and continuity of care, within primary care in particular. But the choice of how to manage this trade-off can be handed to patients (e.g. allowing them to choose whether they want to be seen by a new GP now or the one they’ve had previous contact with in two weeks).

10. Subscription models could make it easier to access primary care resources but also work in combination with health and fitness to help with prevention efforts.

11. Digital is well-placed to help with workforce problems, including resourcing and training. It can be especially powerful in managing access to primary care with AI-enabled digital triage radically improving management of patient flows.

12. The mental health epidemic which was exacerbated by the pandemic is not going to go away any time soon and the sector has nowhere near enough capacity to meet demand. But new forms of treatment, including digital health apps, psychedelic therapy and new forms of transcranial magnetic stimulation, promise to shake up the sector.

13. The rationalisation in the labs public sector does not necessarily translate to big gains for all of the private players.

14. Home testing will be a big part of the future but it will be additive.

15. Working to the top of license is absolutely imperative in every single sector, as is the reduction of administration, and digital solutions – such as radio-frequency identification (RFID) and single tap log on – are solutions that are available to help do that now, organisations need to stop waiting for one single magic bullet.

16. ESG and related KPIs are only going to become more important, to investors as well as regulators.

17. The ‘dream’ of a healthcare system that prioritises preventive care is not just a dream: Israel’s healthcare system is so efficient and has such a good handle on its electronic medical records that integrated payor-providers like Clalit are able to spend a significant amount of their time calling up patients who are at risk of, say, heart disease or diabetes, and warning them.

18. Partnerships are really important for the future of healthcare. If, as is sometimes the case of university hospitals, research scientists lean towards their benches and physicians lean towards their patients, how can they come together to do what’s best for everyone? It is also important for the delivery of efficiency. Chris Coburn of Mass General Brigham says without outsourcing and partnerships it’s impossible to deliver efficiently on sectors like behavioural sciences in an academic/medical environment. It is also great for innovation. Nadine Hacham-Haram of Proximie says the combination of an entrepreneur and a scientist could create something that neither one could achieve alone.

19. Branding is an important consideration when working in a partnership. Misty Hathaway of MA General Hospital said it’s important to ensure certain criteria that consumers associate with your brand are met e.g. do you share goals? If you are a not-for-profit, are you happy to be on display with a for-profit organisation? Do you share quality? Will your partner meet the customer expectations you have earned, or will they introduce reputational risk?

20. Enabling the flow of data and EMR is going to be vital for the delivery of data-driven healthcare services. Barriers to this include the differing regulations of different countries. However, an increase in the quality of data collection, including creating or utilising technology which enables people to be monitored or given the tools to help themselves at home, will enable us to reduce healthcare costs and reduce poor patient outcomes. Betul Unaran of Ypsomed says “one principle we should stick to is international health standards – the needs of people are 90% the same. We are solving universal problems. We want to apply the same methodology, the best understanding of journeys etc for all sorts of diseases.”

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