Work, Healthcare, and Technology – Who needs a Crystal Ball?

“If I had a crystal ball…,” is a phrase I have heard (and used!) many times in my professional career, especially over the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. The reality is no one has a crystal ball to see into the future. Each of us holds our own crystal ball to the future of work, healthcare, and technology. The best steps we can take as professionals to prepare for the future are to commit to training, adaptability, and resilience – and understand that the future we are forging towards is very much a product of the work we put in today.

Training, adaptability, and resilience – I’ll take some time to reflect on each of those themes with hindsight as 20-20 lens from my own career. I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve on WCU’s Program Advisory Committee to share my own experiences to serve the next generation of healthcare and business leaders.

Training

Training and professional development take many forms throughout one’s career and can be both formal and informal. Having the mindset of being a lifelong learner and choosing to seek out learning opportunities are important when deciding to further enhance one’s skillset, knowledge, and expertise. Identifying development opportunities that set your future self for success might seem challenging, but you can ask yourself if you are getting both practical knowledge and developmental depth out of the experience.

More than a decade ago, when technology and digital tools were only a small part of education and work, I committed to pursuing a healthcare administration MBA that was both in-person and online – this experience led me to opportunities within the professional side of healthcare and eventually inspired me to create a company first “remote” team. Being a part of a novel program dramatically shifted my mindset of how work could be done. When I made the decision to pursue the degree, I didn’t know that the skills I learned in my educational pursuit would so directly impact the skills I needed in my professional career – but looking back I can now see that the professional growth was a result of expanding my educational horizon.

Adaptability

I like to think of adaptability as evolution, but at a higher rate of speed. In today’s healthcare world, adaptability is of utmost importance – especially as we think about the rapidly changing landscape over the past several years.  Technology has expanded to impact patient care in ways that will be a part of the future of healthcare including application of Artificial Intelligence, deep data integrations, streamlining clinical processes, and many other technological innovations developed through years of practice and research. The steps and care we take today with patient experience and outcomes in mind will set a higher bar of expectations in the future.

When I first began my career in healthcare, I couldn’t have imagined that there would be a Primary Care Physician I could access on-demand, 24/7 through a text-based app.  But, because of innovation and adaptability within healthcare, coupled with advances in technology, I am a part of an organization (98point6Ò) whose vision is to expand access to primary care by putting technology in the hands of providers.

Resilience

Resilience builds on adaptability; resiliency is being amenable to adaptability, sustained over time. Building resilience is not a singular moment or act but is a commitment to progress and persistence. Rather than shying away from resilience, we should seek out opportunities to become more resilient – embrace the unknowns, become comfortable with being uncomfortable, and remember that our journeys are not always linear.

Linking my present resiliency to the path it took to get here, it’s much easier to see a complete picture of my professional journey, starting my career in a new field of healthcare navigation at the forefront of the concept, to health plan leadership positions, to now developing virtual care strategies with health plans and other industry leading organizations. Resilience varies for each of us – for me, resilience is something I put into practice each day in a different way. Some days, resilience is a grind – other days, resilience is taking a deep breath and reflecting on the journey of what led us to the now.  Without persistence and resilience, there is no progress.

The future is always unknown, but the day-to-day journey to get there is a strong indicator of what we will be prepared for in the future. Don’t be afraid to take the risks and challenge yourself and others – you just might find yourself leading others (crystal ball or not!) to a better future.

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About the Author

Mallory Sumner has more than a decade of healthcare leadership experience. Her healthcare career journey has included development and consulting work during the early days of healthcare navigation, leading large healthcare delivery teams for health plans, to her current role at 98point6 where she is responsible for virtual care strategy and growth. 98point6 is a healthcare technology company that provides on-demand virtual primary care and integrated behavioral health. Mallory holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of North Texas, a Master of Business Administration in Health Services Management from the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center School of Public Health. In December of 2022, Mallory will complete a Master of Legal Studies in Healthcare Law and Policy at Texas A&M University School of Law. Mallory is in the University of North Texas Athletics Hall of Fame (Class of 2018) for her athletic and academic accomplishments as a D-1 softball student athlete. Mallory resides in the Central Texas area with her husband, Andrew, and their three young children. She spends her free time coaching t-ball, reading, and enjoying extended family.

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