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2021 at a glance: Your personal year in review

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Hello, Aurora. How are you doing?

AURORA AGUILAR: I’m well, Kadesha. How are you doing?

MODERN HEALTHCARE: I’m good. We’re both sick with these hoarse voices.

AURORA AGUILAR: It’s that time of year, so …

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Speaking of, this is our last podcast of the year, and we’re actually pausing the podcast for a bit after this. I wanted to have this discussion to review what has come up for you in headlines and in news, and what people should be looking forward to in 2022. Let’s start with the content and the editorial direction for Modern Healthcare.

AURORA AGUILAR: Sure.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: You survey your audience, you keep a pulse on what their information needs are. You made a big pivot this year as far as your content strategy. What are the audiences looking for and asking for as a whole?

AURORA AGUILAR: We made a major change in the frequency of our magazine, which previously had been weekly and now is twice a month. And that was a decision that was made based on the utilization of the actual content for its readers. So, we found that people were not reading it as quickly when they got it, and so they were just kind of compiling them and using them almost for encyclopedic knowledge. Which I very much appreciate, but we were spending a lot of time putting news in there, which we didn’t need to put in.

So, we pivoted to digital content, having more volume on that platform and it’s gone through the roof. Our audience has been great, very receptive to what we’re doing on that and definitely showing that they value the stories that we’re telling on that platform. Some of the surveys that we’ve done have touched on what kinds of topics it is that people really want and need most guidance — from us and the leaders that we interview in order to be able to identify learnings and best practices and those kinds of things.

And really, really high on the list has been the transformation of care delivery, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. The past two years were very transformative for the industry. And the people that really didn’t listen to their consumers — and try and provide them with all of the conveniences that retail and hospitality can offer — were left in the dust. And so, digitization of the industry has been huge and as a result of that, the transformation of care delivery has really changed. So for example, Medicare saw a 63-fold, which equates to a 6,000+ increase in telehealth use. I mean, that’s incredible, right?

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Wow, yeah.

AURORA AGUILAR: And so, the remote monitoring market is worth $1.7 billion — in just a few years, it’s expected to be valued at that with 20 million people using it by 2024. And so this is all of the capability that hospitals have to be able to monitor people at home. And use their expertise and their staffing in much more efficient ways, so they are able to sort of take care of more people. You know this very well based on all of your clients. And also, just give people the comforts of home, which is always going to be better than being in the hospital, right? No one wants to be in the hospital for too long.

So, lots and lots of moves in this industry. Just this week, we saw that Oracle made news for purchasing Cerner, an EHR vendor. And it’s saying that it’s going to delve into wearables, computing areas, and warehousing intelligence operations. And that’s to try and get better health insights, so there is a push not just to be able to provide more access to patients, but also to improve the quality of care. That’s been hit or miss, especially when technology comes into play, but there are still efforts to try and improve upon that. And definitely, many moves to invest in that to try and improve care and access, and all of the issues of affordability that have plagued the industry for a very long time. So, those are the topics — top level, the transformation of the industry is a major concern and one that our audience keeps asking us over and over again to cover more.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: I love talking to you because I feel like you have such a top-down view on all the moving parts in healthcare. Whether it’s care delivery, whether it’s policy, I feel like you’re the go-to person.

With you guys keeping such a good pulse on your audience and what’s happening in the industry, how do you then decide what goes into the editorial strategy?

AURORA AGUILAR: We keep track of all of the editors that work on Modern Healthcare content and are making assignments. Very much deep into the data and seeing what are the stories that resonate? What are the ones that we should cover more of? If there’s one major story, what are the different angles that we might be able to tell to really make sure that our audience is fully informed on the issue? But it also, as you mentioned, speaks to and informs a much larger, editorial content strategy. 

So in the past year, this transformation of the industry was very top of mind for our publisher, Fawn Lopez. She very smartly decided that we were going to be creating a vertical that was looking strictly at digital health business and technology. So that is the name of the brand, and it is a well of content that is dedicated solely to technology — how it’s being funded, and what are the results of that kind of technology and innovation happening? So, that launched in October; it came after an acquisition of a database that was significant in being able to identify, what are some of the trends for the money that’s being funneled in? And so that’s helping inform a lot of the reporting that we’re doing — identifying and forecasting some of the major trends that might be coming in the future. It’s really kind of created a whole new brand for Modern Healthcare that we’re very proud of.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: And how do consumers access this brand? Do they go through the Modern Healthcare site? Is there a separate site for this content?

AURORA AGUILAR: They can access it through Modern Healthcare, so it’s part of our navigation on the homepage. They can also access it just through a URL that I can share.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Sounds good. The next thing I want to talk about is just your audience in general. We decided for this podcast, we were going to evolve the audience to focus on up-and-coming healthcare leaders, specifically women. How has the audience for Modern Healthcare in general evolved over the pandemic?

AURORA AGUILAR: So yes, when we started talking about what this podcast was going to be about, you know we had record turnover for CEOs. We had huge growth, which has just increased as far as the number of companies that are starting up, and that are siphoning some of the talent away from some of the larger organizations to be able to establish themselves with established leadership. And so, we knew that there was a need to be able to really fast track your way up the ladder in ways that we could be helpful with. Because we do have our ear to the ground, and we have connections to some of the most veteran and established people in the industry that are usually very honest with us about how they’ve learned and what mistakes they’ve made, and celebrating the wins that they’ve had. So we identified that as being something that was extremely necessary. And also because there have been so many gender disparity issues in healthcare, we decided to focus on that. 

As we have sort of seen some of the audience respond to various aspects of targeted content creation, we have seen that thankfully, some of the issues have transcended gender. They’ve transcended race. They’ve transcended different types of leadership going up the ranks. And so, we’re realizing that there is still very much a need to be able to kind of figure out where you fit in an organization, how you might be able to take the next steps. But that doesn’t just end at the director level. That goes up to the C-suite, who are very often trying to figure out their next steps because they are doing very successful succession planning. And have identified people that they trust to leave behind, and are excited about sort of seeing where they go with their learnings.

I think that that’s one thing that we’ve sort of identified as an opportunity — is to broaden what we’re going to be discussing and the advice that we’re going to be providing, and the different levels of leadership that we will be looking towards. I think that we can go beyond the C-suite, also to some other people rising through the ranks in very unique positions in new companies. There’s been a lot of changes in the types of executives and the roles that they take on through this transformation of the industry, and I’m really excited to talk to some of those people as well.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Yeah, definitely. I think the last time you and I talked, I mentioned I’m turning 40 soon. And I feel like most other healthcare executives my age really need a mentor right now. Like it’s not just the C-suite, it’s those people who are headed there and all levels in-between, so I think that’s a very good move.

You recently released the 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare. How do you choose the people for that, and what do you think this current class says about the industry?

AURORA AGUILAR: So, this was really, really fun for me. This is probably the project that gets me most excited each and every single year. This is something that’s happened long before I became editor. But this list, I’m very proud to say, has a very long history. It’s celebrating its 20th year this year. And it’s got a very long history of being both sort of a kingmaker — you know, there are people that, once they’re identified through Modern Healthcare and my predecessors as being very influential in the industry, they are then risen up much faster and identified by other organizations that are looking for talent.

How we chose the 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare for 2021

And at its best, it’s also been very good at kind of predicting where the industry is going next. And so, the way that finance has affected — external finance, outside finance, corporate investment, venture capital, private equity — has affected the industry, all of that transformation, all of that technology, all of that innovation that we talked about earlier today, really in some cases would not have been made possible without outside investment. And so, a lot of organizations have their capital budgets, but they don’t have the ability to be able to scale as quickly as some of them had to in this case as a result of the pandemic.

So, annual private equity deals — the values of them have nearly tripled from $41 billion in 2010 to $119 billion in 2019. The 25 most active private equity firms are currently holding about $510 billion in uninvested cash, according to recent data. And a lot of experts wouldn’t be surprised if investment increases by 30 to 40{f771d91d784324d4be731abc64bffe0d1fd8f26504ceb311bcfd8e5b001778f4} in 2022, thanks to the way that the stock market has actually reacted to some of these investments. So, lots and lots of money that’s being funneled in, really interesting people that are a part of this.

Corporate investors reshape healthcare industry

And so, what I found most rewarding in this list is that we saw a lot of new names. And people that — without their attention to the needs of patients and employees in healthcare, and the executives that are looking to really innovate and are very progressive in doing so — it would not have been possible without these people. So General Catalyst, for example, we had the founder, but the managing partner of actual healthcare is someone that’s very significant and a big name.

So, there’s a lot of people that are new to the list but that are very, very influential and I cannot wait to see what else they manage to do to transform the industry, which you know is not always very quick to move on its own. There’s definitely a lot of movers and shakers that are pushing the boundaries behind the scenes in ways that I think will be really interesting. And if you look down the list, I think seeing the trajectory of those people over the next couple of years will be really fascinating.

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MODERN HEALTHCARE: Yeah, absolutely. So, last question: For the up-and-coming leaders who are looking at Modern Healthcare, using it as sort of their GPS for where the industry is going, what topics should they absolutely stay on top of to add value to their health systems?

AURORA AGUILAR: I mean, the one that comes immediately top of mind and has been a big focus of discussion for all the leaders that I’ve spoken to has been staffing. It’s no surprise, we know this already. It’s been a big issue that you’ve touched on with a lot of different people that you’ve interviewed on the podcast. And you know, there are reasons for it. People are burnt out, they’re tired. In a lot of cases, they felt like the contract between the employer and the employee was fractured. The belief that you get paid, but you are going to be in a safe space where you are protected, and that you’re given all of the resources that you need to be able to do your job well — that hasn’t always happened. And a lot of the companies, unfortunately, were hit hardest by the pandemic. And as a result of that, a lot of the biggest companies are looking at major costs to recruit, retain, and just keep their employees satisfied. So that’s the biggest issue, I would say.

Secondly, I think that DEI [diversity, equity, and inclusion] is no longer just kind of like a catchphrase. I spoke to the group of honorees for the Diversity Leaders award in December — it was a fantastic gala with lots of families there celebrating the honor. And I was very, very saddened to see one executive in particular that had to be brought in with security detail because of having spoken in support of teaching critical race theory.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Wow.

AURORA AGUILAR: I still get chills thinking about that. So, as much as it’s become something that’s part of the norm — and unfortunately is sort of a badge of honor for those that choose to kind of take it on — I think it’s still very difficult to have conversations that go beyond, we know that there’s a problem. It’s about, what is the problem, and how do you contribute to it without even maybe even realizing it? How do you make sure that people that are brought in because they’re talented and because they bring a different perspective, are also allowed to speak their minds and be themselves?

And so, it’s not just about sitting at the table and just being a person that can speak up for a certain part of the population. It’s about allowing those experiences to really inform and make knowledgeable all of the other people around you. And so, I think the rubber is hitting the road on that. We have lots of announcements about the newest chief diversity officer, but we want to wait to see what kind of impact they’re going to have. And we’re going to really ask for that kind of accountability, and I think most certainly, employees and patients will as well.

Lastly I think, what to do with all of these hospitals? I mean, we’ve got all these big beautiful buildings all across the country that take up major footprints and might not necessarily be used as much in the future.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Wow.

AURORA AGUILAR: And so, the evolution of real estate and in healthcare is something that I find really fascinating. And the increased use of outpatient care is something that I think more and more people on the consumer side are sort of seeing as advantageous to them. And so, as a result of that, I do feel like we’re going to end up with a lot of empty buildings.

I have a question for you.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Sure.

AURORA AGUILAR: What was your favorite interview and why?

MODERN HEALTHCARE: You know what? It is still Michael Dowling!

AURORA AGUILAR: Really? Ah, he’s so great. He’s so fantastic.

MODERN HEALTHCARE:  He is still my favorite interview. You know, it was something we put together really quickly because he had so much to say about his health system’s initial response to the pandemic. And I felt like I could have written a movie script based on his information. And it was so good to just — I mean obviously, this audience is very much so deeply entrenched — but to see another health system, how they were able to navigate it. I still refer to him in pretty much every episode, like “Well Michael Dowling said …”

AURORA AGUILAR: He’s brilliant. He’s a genius, which is why he’s one of our 100 Most Influential People!

MODERN HEALTHCARE: There you go. Well, thank you so much for sharing this insight, this podcast has been a blast. Thank you so much for this opportunity and for these great conversations.

AURORA AGUILAR: No, thank you, Kadesha. You’ve been an excellent partner, and we could not have asked for a more professional and knowledgeable person to do this with. So, thank you.

OUTRO COMMENTS: Thank you, Aurora, for joining us as we reflect on this past year in healthcare. And thank you to our listeners. We appreciate your loyalty as you’ve been a part of discussions on everything from the pandemic; to succession planning; to diversity, equity, and inclusion; to challenges that women face in the healthcare industry.

Again, I’m your host, Kadesha Smith, CEO of CareContent. We help health systems reach their target audiences through digital marketing that focuses on the right content.

Check out past episodes of Next Up at modernhealthcare.com/podcasts, or on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or your preferred podcatcher. Thank you again for listening.

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