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How 2022 Will Reshape Health Care: Blue Shield of California Executives Predict a Critical Year

From top left clockwise: Paul Markovich, Peter Long, Hope Scott, Dr. Susan Fleischman, Debbie Chang, Mary O'Hara, Andy Chasin and Lisa Davis

We asked executives -- from President and CEO Paul Markovich to human resources chief Mary O'Hara -- to predict the issues that will impact health care for the nation and Californians in 2022.


On the Healthcare Industry

Paul Markovich, president and CEO

There are three areas where the healthcare ecosystem should direct its focus. The first is to move forward with the creation of a modern digital infrastructure that gives consumers, providers, health plans, and when appropriate public health officials, complete, real-time health data, so they can make better, fully-informed decisions. The second is to move to a payment model that rewards providers for improved patient outcomes, based on data-driven decisions enabled by that digital infrastructure. Finally, we must make health care more affordable and equitable for everyone.

The good news is that here in California, we are uniquely positioned to make significant progress in 2022 as we design and implement the state’s new health data mandate and make the governor’s proposed vision of the Office of Health Care Affordability come to life.

On Returning to the Workplace

Mary O’Hara, executive vice president, People and Engagement

Research continues to show us that productivity isn't deterred in a remote setting, but we also know that live interactions with colleagues cannot be replaced through Zoom and the like. In 2022, employers will continue to re-think what it means to have flexible and hybrid work arrangements. The future workplace is more likely to be smaller sites for collaboration and co-creation than it is "big flagship" headquarters. And while employees have enjoyed the flexibility of working from home, we know that burnout is a very real thing and will continue to challenge employers in 2022. It's also more important than ever for employers to strengthen mental health services and supports to maintain a healthy work culture.


On Policymaking

Andy Chasin, vice president, Federal Policy and Advocacy

Congress took important steps this year to expand coverage and affordability, as well as to address the economic impacts of the coronavirus. However, the window for legislating will quickly close as campaign season heats up with the House (at a minimum) likely to flip. The Biden administration will fill the void with constant activity to try to drive the news cycle. Redistricting nationwide will create unusual volatility, and the Supreme Court will likely put access to abortion on the ballot. All eyes will be on inflation and COVID variants with voters longing for a return to normalcy.  Buckle up—it will be a bumpy ride!


On Bringing Equality to the Healthcare System

Peter Long, executive vice president, Strategy and Health Solutions

In 2022, we will continue to find ways to bring care into communities. For example, our collaboration with Walgreens to offer highly personalized support for unmet social needs at participating Health Corner locations throughout the state helps to address housing, food, income and transportation insecurity, with the help of our Community Health Advocates. We can’t keep trying to fix a broken system, we must – and will – transform it.


On Coping with the Pandemic

Susan Fleischman, senior vice president and chief medical officer

Californians will continue to need to take precautions to protect themselves from COVID-19, including getting vaccinated or getting booster shots, getting children over 5 vaccinated, and getting children under 5 vaccinated when the vaccine is approved and available. We need to continue to wear masks and socially distance as we did in 2021. While cases are starting to rise in California, it’s very difficult to predict what impact the virus and variants will have on us in the future. We are in a much better place at the start of 2022 than we were last year. The past few years have taken a toll on all of us, so mental health should be a priority for everyone next year. We also have an opportunity to catch up on routine care such as vaccinations and care for chronic diseases that was deferred in 2020 and 2021. We have a lot of catching up to do.


On Technology Transforming Health Care

Lisa Davis, senior vice president and chief information officer

I’ll be looking to see more focus on hyperautomation – where organizations rapidly identify, vet solutions, and automate as many business processes as possible. The technology we built our businesses on years ago is no longer supported at the level cloud-native platforms are today. Cloud technologies must become core to our operations in order to deliver digital capabilities anywhere and everywhere. With the ability of the cloud to provide scalable and elastic IT capabilities “as a service,” our organizations will be in a better position to respond to and meet the health needs of our communities if we use advanced technologies – including artificial intelligence and machine learning – to target healthcare services when and where they are needed.


On Diversity, Inclusion and What Makes a Workplace Attractive

Hope Scott, senior vice president, general counsel, corporate secretary and head of Blue Shield's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leadership Council

In the coming year, the most successful companies will move beyond statements of their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) principles to achieve measurable and sustainable DE&I goals. As employees contemplate returning to working in offices, they will place a high value on having a physically and mentally safe, supportive, and inclusive work environment. They will gravitate toward companies that demonstrate a commitment to building and nurturing a diverse workforce in an environment that maximizes every individual’s potential to contribute, learn, grow and succeed. Companies that create opportunities for employees to share and understand one another’s unique experiences and perspectives in constructive and collaborative ways will be most desirable.


On Making a Healthier California and Breaking the Cycle of Domestic Violence

Debbie Chang, president and CEO at Blue Shield of California Foundation

With our sharpened focus on high-impact initiatives that reach more people, the foundation is poised to fulfill our mission: to make California the healthiest state and to end domestic violence. We want all Californians – especially communities of color with low incomes – to have the same opportunity to live a healthy life. To get there, we must tackle the root causes of gender, racial, and economic inequities. The foundation is investing in community-based organizations that are leading the way. With these partners, in 2022 we will increase our impact and scale up the most promising approaches to achieve health equity and break the multigenerational cycle of domestic violence.