COVID-19: The Lightning Rod is a Strategy Centered on Value

Written by Bo Nemelka, Principal, and Brett Graham, Chief Strategy Officer, at Leavitt Partners

The Lightning Rod is a Strategy Centered on Value

A lightning rod is a metal rod placed on top of a building which is connected to the ground below to protect the building from being damaged by lightning strikes. When (not if) lightning strikes, it draws the force of the potential damage to the ground to avoid larger-scale damage.

As the lightning from COVID-19 is striking, and will continue to strike over the coming weeks and months, we need to channel the energy to a productive lightning rod. In health care, the lightning rod is a strategy centered on the advancement toward value-based care.

The following elements are demonstrating to be essential for any health care strategy centering around advancing value-based care.

A value strategy centered on delivery of care being more easily accessible and virtual.
The American people are essentially being forced to look for health care delivery alternatives knowing access to the traditional health care system is constrained. Our Federal and State governments are making unprecedented, but some may say essential, decisions to open access for health care. The idea that going to a hospital or other medical facility may cause more damage to your health than staying home is a paradigm shift and could lead to future benefits. The value of this shift is becoming real for the general population as we face present challenges. The availability of technology such as telehealth is a differentiator for Americans because we have already developed a world-class telecommunications infrastructure.

Personal Finance
A value strategy centered on finances at the individual and family level on what is critical and what is not.
Most American families cannot afford the health care they consume. While insurance can mitigate risk, it doesn’t reduce cost. The COVID-19 pandemic demands a pause in what care is provided and how it is paid for. What is essential and what is not? Elective care is being postponed and canceled not just because of the industry’s capacity, but also because Americans are tracking their finances and choosing to save and not spend. This will create a reality check for how we spend our health care dollars as individuals, families, and communities—now and in the future.

A value strategy centered on prevention as a key determinant in who to treat and who not to treat.
America is unhealthy and it’s time to be direct about this fact. While there have been recent attempts to address social determinants, health equity, and other uncontrolled factors, some of these remain largely unpreventable. However, individual accountability for health is a significant factor, and COVID-19 shines a giant spotlight on Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and other chronic diseases that are straining the health care system. While the decision to treat or not treat individuals based on preventable diseases is sensitive and often politicized, it is also unavoidable. Ultimately dispassionate economic forces will demand that we address the matter where we will be advantaged by proactive study and deliberation.

Public Health
A value strategy centered on both the epidemiological and non-epidemiological public health factors in our families and communities, including social determinants.
Public health can be defined in many ways. As it relates to COVID-19 and future disease outbreaks, there is an epidemiological angle. This must be in our strategy. Public health also includes how Americans care for themselves in public ways or as communities. This list won’t be exhaustive, but it’s a start—our neighborhoods, churches, playgrounds, recreational activities, schools, physical activities, gyms, daycares, camps, community centers, shopping districts, restaurants, coffee shops, libraries, clubs, family and friend gatherings, etc. Public health spans all of these, which in turn contribute to the health of the public.

Mental and Behavioral Health
A value strategy centered on mental and behavioral health while deprioritizing more transactional and/or less essential health care services.
COVID-19 will bring a massive wave of mental and behavioral health implications. Those following the mental and behavioral health industry already know this has been nearing a tipping point. The number of Americans in need of mental and behavioral health services is unmanageable with the current workforce if we do not make changes to address current and future implications.

A value strategy centered on employment in health care as an unsustainable trend, requiring disruption within the industry to bend the cost curve.
The largest employers in most states are in the health care industry. This has grown over the years to a point that can’t be sustained. Most employers and corporations are looking at the rise of health care costs and making difficult decisions to bend the cost curve. COVID-19 adds unexpected pressure and will require sudden decision making. The government will look for public solutions, but private employers will act swiftly, changing behavior based on the new environment.


All health care stakeholders will benefit by integrating their strategy with value elements. As the lightning strikes, where can we channel the energy to be most productive and not damaging?

The following questions can help drive a value strategy:

  • How can we better use telehealth and lower unnecessary care?
  • How can we lower health care costs for individuals and families?
  • How can we help in the prevention of chronic disease?
  • How can we partner with public health?
  • How can we prioritize mental and behavioral health?
  • How can we shift the employment of our workforce to better position for sustained success

Leavitt Partners can help you as you navigate this period of uncertainty and complexity. As experts in strategy and advancing value, we stand ready to assist as your trusted advisor.