James Peake

James Peake

Senior Vice-President

Reflecting on my journey in the healthcare sector—from my years as a practitioner, through my tenures as U.S. Army Surgeon General and Secretary of Veterans Affairs, to my time in industry with CGI—I’m struck by the seismic shifts impacting public and private health systems and their stakeholders.

Two decades ago, healthcare looked vastly different than it does today. Transformative investments, widespread adoption of digital technologies, electronic health records, and telemedicine have enhanced accessibility and patient care options. The growing emphasis on personalized medicine is complemented by advances in medical research that result in more targeted and innovative treatment options. Social determinants of health are increasingly recognized for their impact on health and healthcare outcomes.

Despite the opportunities these changes offer, I see familiar challenges that impact the ability of industry and government to capitalize on them on behalf of the people they serve. Among these recurrent challenges that demand new thinking and a concerted effort toward innovative solutions are:

Financial difficulties

The COVID pandemic was a watershed event that caused widespread financial strain across various systems, initially alleviated in many countries by government subsidies that are now gone. Additionally, the inflation cycle has influenced costs, particularly in healthcare. Inflation rates, once flattened during the recession, have now surged beyond the core inflation trajectory. Labor costs remain elevated compared to pre-COVID levels, with a renewed emphasis on prioritizing health equity, albeit with associated expenses.

Health system mergers and acquisitions (M&A)

M&A in healthcare is again on the upswing. As we have more vertical integration, we must be innovative in restructuring the components to better coordinate care for individuals, engage communities and social services, and reward quality measured by metrics that reflect the impact on the patient.

Recruiting and retaining health professionals

The struggle to meet the demand for healthcare workers is not new. While some argue that this is not purely a numbers problem, all agree there is a mismatch between provider distribution and population need. Innovative technologies offer promising solutions in this regard. Leveraging telemedicine practices to extend expertise is one avenue.

Moreover, artificial intelligence (AI) can streamline hiring processes, aiding in recruiting and retaining qualified staff. Additionally, AI can contribute to fostering a fulfilling work environment by empowering providers to operate at their fullest potential. With proper guardrails, generative AI can efficiently and ethically handle routine tasks.

Notably, my colleague, Steve Sousa, recently penned a blog outlining the transformative impact of AI on healthcare.

Using technology innovations

The healthcare industry has traditionally been slow to embrace technological innovations. However, our Voice of Our Clients research indicates a noticeable shift in this trend. Despite progress, realizing the full potential of new technology requires proactive business process re-engineering and aligning workflows with emerging capabilities alongside effective change management strategies. It's crucial to prioritize interoperability solutions, fortify cybersecurity and data privacy measures, and ensure that IT investments align with government objectives. Creating a regulatory framework conducive to innovation and implementing best practices in health service delivery are additional challenges agencies face in this evolving landscape.

The government healthcare sector encounters challenges similar to those of the commercial healthcare industry, but has the potential to exemplify the best practices in integrated delivery systems. With its access to industry partners, governments can lead by example in innovatively using integrated data, responsibly applying AI, optimizing taxpayer funds, and assessing the impact on diverse beneficiary populations, including military veterans, active/retired military personnel and their families, as well as unique demographics, such as Indigenous populations and the incarcerated people.

Moving forward

I recommend looking at the big picture to find real opportunities to streamline business processes. Start small by identifying key areas and pursuing pilot initiatives or proofs of concept that show value. Then scale fast for sustained results.

Contact us to discuss how your organization can discover opportunities to mitigate healthcare’s perpetual challenges.

About this author

James Peake

James Peake

Senior Vice-President

Dr. James Peake, M. D. , former U. S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Army Surgeon General, is a senior vice president at CGI Federal overseeing the company’s healthcare programs.