Mayo Clinic's 15-year focus

Workforce strategies and healthcare disruptors are just a couple things Sarah Poncelet, chair of the strategy and enterprise portfolio management office and strategic consulting services at Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic, is paying attention to in 2024.

Ms. Poncelet spoke with Becker's about her goals for Mayo Clinic's near and far future.

Note: This conversation was lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: What are you most looking forward to in 2024?

Sarah Poncelet: First we're starting to think broadly about the future of medicine as it relates to what happens in a physical location. We've been outlining some practice transformational aspects as it relates to our hospitals because we're expanding our physical footprint and growth. We're thinking about some of the pivots we might need to make. What are the future CAR-T therapies or proton beam therapies? How does diagnostics shifting into home or therapeutic shifting into home really fundamentally change how we interact with patients? What is that seamless interaction between a physical and a digital environment? 

In light of that, we're also looking to forecast our 2040 future instead of our 2030 future and really thinking big and bold into the next 15 years. 

Finally, we've been investing quite a bit in our generative artificial intelligence, large language models and automation. So I'm excited to see some of our efforts and automation really drive an impact and hopefully alleviate some of the hard-to-staff roles.

Q: What have been the hardest roles to staff? How are you approaching it?

SP: The most difficult role to staff is nursing. We've seen a nursing shortage globally, and that is a space where we have been thinking through a few different things. Some within nursing are the tasks that they're doing where we could utilize technology and/or robotics to help alleviate some of that. I think at Mayo, about 30% of their work is in documentation, communicating and care coordination. So how do we relook at how they're doing their work and empowering them with some technology in order to not be short-staffed everywhere? We've been looking at process automation as well as potential automation solutions within our inpatient setting as well as our surgery setting. 

The other couple of roles that are extremely difficult are our surgical techs as well as our imaging techs. We've been thinking about either vended solutions or potential automated solutions that help with surgical trays and instrument processing, and how we utilize vendors differently and maximize the impact there and areas that we could potentially automate. 

Q: When you think about these long-term plans, what are the biggest challenges that you're anticipating? What's your strategy to tackle that?

SP: I think some of what we're anticipating for challenges is an ongoing workforce constraint. Seeing that we're having an aging population shifting into Medicare Advantage, a lot of hospitals and health systems are looking at our financial model and thinking about how we create viability. We've seen a lot of rural healthcare kind of close and change how they're able to support patients. We have to think about new technologies to reach more people and maximize that from a value-based lens. There's a lot of headwinds from the government in that space. 

I also think that we need to think about the additional consumer expectations. Our consumers are going to be changing how they interact with healthcare because there's so many new entrants into the space such as Walgreens, Amazon and Best Buy as well as some of the app-based solutions that are going to be changing the healthcare landscape. What are the expectations from our consumers? What are the things that they're going to adopt? For us, it might be thinking through different types of partnerships because we are not going to be focused on some of the areas that Walgreens, Walmart and Amazon would be focused on. 

Q: Along with the long-term goals, what are the big goals for mid-2024 at Mayo Clinic?

SP: We are preparing in Rochester for a very, very large investment in our future hospital, and we're asking, "What is the smart hospital of the future?" How do we create a physical space that stands the test of time? 

We're thinking very much far into the future, but very practically, for construction, we have to have a series of moves in order to create space. Additionally, we are thinking about how we can make solid use cases around automation in order to show an impact by midyear and by the end of the year. We want to have some really practical spaces where we've implemented automation solutions, whether it's process automation, our robotic robotic process automation or AI solutions and have an impact for our staff this year. 

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