Providers need to work together. No matter where your healthcare needs are met, providers need to work together across healthcare systems. To help save time, increase efficiency, and raise the level of care, providers should invest in resources that can help providers better communicate to one another. This will decrease the risk of misdiagnosis in treatment or double billing a patient.
The COVID-19 Pandemic taught all of us many things. One of the sectors that the pandemic put a spotlight on was the healthcare industry. The pandemic showed the resilience of the US healthcare system, but it also pointed out some important areas in need of improvement.
In our interview series called “In Light Of The Pandemic, Here Are The 5 Things We Need To Do To Improve The US Healthcare System”, we are interviewing doctors, hospital administrators, nursing home administrators, and healthcare leaders who can share lessons they learned from the pandemic about how we need to improve the US Healthcare System.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure to interview Glenn Lane.
Glenn is the Founder and President of Westchester Family Care, a licensed home care agency that provides care for seniors who are aging in place in Westchester County and Connecticut. Glenn opened Westchester Family Care in 2016 with the belief that high-quality personal home care through exceptional caregivers will “let family members be family again.”
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into our interview, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and a bit about what brought you to this specific career path?
My career in at-home care started with my own family. Before launching Westchester Family Care, I worked in financial services as part of several startups and J.P. Morgan and Citigroup. In 2010 my mother, my mother-in-law, and her sister were all diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. We were all devasted, overwhelmed and unsure about what to expect. After their diagnosis, I quickly realized that there were many families like mine who were dealing with an array of illnesses with their loved ones but wanted to be cared for and safe at home. If no one in our area could provide compassionate home care, I would work to provide it and make sure our community had the same level of care services available to them.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
There’s not any one story that I can point to when I look back at my career. I do like to reflect on how working in the at-home care industry continues to teach me a new lesson almost every day. I always emphasize with my management team at Westchester Family Care about how situations come up with caregivers or clients (either good or bad) that show us that not every situation we encounter is the same. There is always something new to experience and learn.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
There are times where I might catch myself moving too fast, especially when we are working with a new client. Time and time again, I remind myself that the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that everyone processes what they need differently. Every family member, client and caregiver is different and you have to take this into account — especially when working with clients suffering from cognitive illnesses and their families.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I don’t have a specific quote I lean on, but I’m reminded of a manager I worked with at J.P. Morgan Chase and how he constantly coached me when I worked in banking with words of wisdom which I am always recalling. That experience and his training helps me in what I do now in at-home care management.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We’re working to build out our social work practice in Westchester and Fairfield Counties. We also will be expanding our presence in Connecticut due to many of our potential New York clients utilizing medical facilities and staff in Connecticut. We’re also continuing to build out disease specific programs.
How would you define an “excellent healthcare provider”?
All healthcare providers need to have a deep level of understanding of the medical and non-medical care they are providing. What separates average care from outstanding is the ability to empathize with your patient and go through the experience together. While an average healthcare provider will be able to connect with their patient through the understanding of the medical process, an excellent healthcare provider will sympathize and acknowledge the pain their patient is in. They will go above and beyond and put themselves in the patient’s shoes. Excellent healthcare providers go back to that golden rule we were all once taught, “treat others the way you want to be treated,” and remember what it is like to be cared for. When healthcare providers approach care with this mentality, they will begin to see the client as a whole person, rather than a set of symptoms they must treat.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. The COVID-19 pandemic has put intense pressure on the American healthcare system. Some healthcare systems were at a complete loss as to how to handle this crisis. Can you share with our readers a few examples of where we’ve seen the U.S. healthcare system struggle? How do you think we can correct these specific issues moving forward?
There are two things that I think were issues early on. First was the lack of available testing and a testing strategy. We saw how the countries that responded early with aggressive testing were able to identify cases and manage situations which create further spread.
Second, earlier development and implimentation of quarantine protocols, and social distancing and clear mask requirements should have been applied. There were issues surrounding COVID positive patients being sent back to the nursing homes in many states. We now know that over half the COVID deaths in the US were ages 75 and up, our most vulnerable population. One of the silver linings from this pandemic is that we can take the tools we built to fight COVID to apply for future outbreaks.
Of course the story was not entirely negative. Healthcare professionals were true heroes on the front lines of the crisis. The COVID vaccines are saving millions of lives. Can you share a few ways that our healthcare system really did well? If you can, please share a story or example.
Throughout the pandemic, the thing that really stood out to me was the incredible courage and hard work of our health care workers. From doctors and other workers isolating from their families for weeks at a time to nurses, tasked with the massive responsibility of acting as the patients’ families due to visitor restrictions. I also want to applaud our team of at-home care takers who have gone above and beyond for our clients. Everyone had to adapt quickly and make incredibly difficult decisions throughout the pandemic.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. As a healthcare leader can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.
- Shift from need-based care to preventive care. I think one of the most essential changes to improve the US healthcare system is shifting our mindset and practice from need-based care to preventative care. For example, offering cancer screenings more often will help identify possible concerns earlier and thus give time to act before it’s too late. Overall, preventive care is also cheaper. While opponents argue that screenings are expensive, cancer treatments can cost significantly more. Prevention can save lives and money, which can be used to improve research and general care. Preventative care also empowers patients to understand their own health, know when it is necessary to call doctors, and feel safer which will put less pressure on healthcare workers who are already facing burnout to make up for industry-wide shortages and an increase of healthcare demand. Working with elderly patients, prevention takes a second form of ensuring a safe and healthy living environment. Falls are the leading cause of hospitalization for older adults in the US, so to stay ahead of possible fall-related injuries, Westchester Family Care offers fall prevention programs specific to individual needs.
- Tailor care. The healthcare industry must understand that each patient has different needs. Having a patient-first mentality where you discuss options with your patient, given the opportunity, and decide together on what is right will significantly change the quality of care and experience. Tailoring care also means hiring a more diverse healthcare team so people can be treated by people they feel comfortable with and represented by. Across the country, medical professionals treat patients differently because of their race, gender, age or other identities. Westchester Family Care was founded on the principles of tailoring our care to each of our clients. Where before patients had to qualify for specific levels of care and function on the hours of the facility they live at, at-home care allows for people to have someone there in-case of emergencies and to have care tailored exactly to their needs.
- Focus on care vs. profit. The healthcare industry needs to center their work around providing care vs. maximizing profit. Healthcare should be comprehensive between providers with all parties focusing on how to best help the patient, rather than how they will be reimbursed. Once the industry puts healthcare first, everything else will start to fall into place as the system will entirely shift its focus.
- Providers need to work together. No matter where your healthcare needs are met, providers need to work together across healthcare systems. To help save time, increase efficiency, and raise the level of care, providers should invest in resources that can help providers better communicate to one another. This will decrease the risk of misdiagnosis in treatment or double billing a patient.
- Invest in Technology. The healthcare industry needs to build on the advances and investments made in technology. For example, telehealth visits have been able to connect patients with their providers from the comfort of their home. These investments will allow care to become more accessible and affordable for the patient and more manageable for the providers.
Let’s zoom in on this a bit deeper. How do you think we can address the problem of physician shortages?
Over the past few years, demand for healthcare has significantly grown with more patients than ever before and not nearly enough physicians to treat them. Addressing the physician shortage is more than just a simple fix; it’s a mix of improving the systems to provide more efficient care and breaking down systemic flaws that bar more physicians from entering. If we’ve learned one thing from the COVID-19 pandemic is that telehealth works as an accessible and efficient alternative, allowing physicians to serve more patients in a timelier manner. With this, creating teams of physicians, nurses, physician assistants, and other healthcare professionals will help combat the shortage and provide higher quality patient care in general. As for attracting people to the profession, increasing interest in the industry and providing resources to training institutions will start to replenish the pool of physicians as many begin to retire, with two-fifths of physicians reaching 65 by 2030. For those considering retirement, providing opportunities to work half-time as they reach the end of their career will help cut losses until those jobs can be filled. While there are many solutions to physician shortages, if we, as an industry, don’t act quickly enough, these problems will continue growing and millions will be left without sufficient healthcare.
How do you think we can address the issue of physician diversity?
Despite the country’s population experiencing a significant increase in diversity, our healthcare professionals fail to represent that. A diverse physician workforce is essential to address the ongoing health disparities felt nationwide. Addressing physician diversity starts in the educational sphere, where many underrepresented groups feel unseen due to a lack of faculty with similar backgrounds, feelings of imposter syndrome, and oftentimes financial concerns. Making education more accessible and representative will, in turn, make our healthcare system more accessible and representative.
How do you think we can address the issue of physician burnout?
Doctors and caretakers are so often focused on caring for others, they often forget to care for themselves. Making time for self-care is important in any field, but especially important for those caring for others. We’ve seen the rise in popularity of meditation and exercise to relief stress and bring mental clarity. The most important thing a physician or any other caretaker for that matter can do for those they care for is start with themselves. It’s the simple stuff: eat right, get enough sleep, get some movement every day. We recommend this all the time for our patients; we just have to remember to start with ourselves.
What concrete steps would have to be done to actually manifest all of the changes you mentioned? What can a) individuals, b) corporations, c) communities and d) leaders do to help?
As you can probably tell by now, these issues (physician shortages, diversity, and burnout) are interconnected, so the steps we must take to manifest change have a similar starting ground. As individuals, we can support the healthcare workers in our lives and help them through the systemic challenges associated with the process and job to minimize physician shortages by way of burnout. Even just acknowledging the hard work the healthcare workers in our lives do and reminding them that we believe in them goes a long way. Corporations can play a significant role in addressing physician diversity and can truly manifest change by implementing diversity-based hiring and training programs. Especially in locations with a majority-minority population, finding healthcare workers to represent the people they serve is of the utmost importance. Communities can combine the efforts of individuals and corporations and support healthcare workers while elevating diverse community voices across the industry. Hosting fundraisers and support events for healthcare workers and community members studying to enter the field will again minimize physician shortages and burnout and increase diversity. From corporate leaders to community leaders, taking initiative to support healthcare workers is the most important step to manifesting change. Without identifying and acting against of the systemic problems in the field and providing support for healthcare workers and those in training, shortages and burnout will continue and diversity will fail to grow.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My passion lies in helping my community, our senior population and our eamployees. One of my goals is to raise awareness about the importance of elderly care and how critical quality care it can be for families. If I can help one client get the care they need and in turn show their friends or family, then my hope is that message will spread.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you so much for these insights! This was very inspirational and we wish you continued success in your great work.