Read the Conversation

EF: Will 2024 be a year of opportunities or challenges for you? 

JJF: I believe there will be more opportunities than challenges in 2024. Certain difficulties may also present opportunities. We see the upcoming year as a chance to advance hospital sustainability-related challenges. Sustainability generally refers to ESG emphasizing governance, the environment, and our social obligations. We are examining every area that is encompassed by sustainability. The Polish Hospital Federation's new vision serves as one illustration of this. 

The first element is simple to understand. The second part means that we think Poland and other European nations' healthcare systems are too disjointed and uncoordinated. We must dismantle the divisions within the healthcare industry to deliver sustainable healthcare in the future. These divisions are present in the long-term care sector, hospital care, and primary care industry. As a sector, we need to collaborate to generate ideas and solutions. The actual use and implementation of ideas and solutions are far more important than their existence. This is our current plan. 

Last year, the Polish Hospital Federation appointed a Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO). At the World Hospital Congress held by the International Hospital Federation, we realized we were the first National Hospital Federation to have such a position. Although CSOs are present in many hospitals, the National Hospital Federation was informed that it was the first in the world to have such a role. This year, we will be looking for opportunities for our CSO as well as for the Polish Hospital Federation and the offices of so-called green hospitals. 

Education is the key to being even more active. We are implementing specialized certified training programs for hospital management, emphasizing sustainability. This program is known as a Polish Hospital Federation Green Certificate. We are offering this as a part of our ESG and governance. We will also be offering cyber security education through the Blue Certificate. 

In addition to examining education, we intend to deepen our collaboration with the International Hospital Federation's (IHF) Geneva Sustainability Center. IHF's Geneva office focuses on all sustainability challenges for healthcare organizations, particularly hospitals. The International Hospital Federation counts the Polish Hospital Federation among its members. Our delegation attended the first sustainability master class held in May last year. This year, we aim to have a conference linked to the Governing Council of the International Hospital Federation meeting in Krakow, bringing together several important figures from the Central European region. 

We plan to host a demonstration of several of our sustainability-related efforts, such as digitization, green energy, and transformation. We will use this to further our regional activities in Central Europe. Poland, Croatia, Montenegro, and other countries in that region must be more actively involved in the sustainability movement. 

Although Poland has a robust healthcare system, we foresee some challenges. Our primary healthcare metrics, such as hospitalizations for stroke and mortality from myocardial infarction, are reasonably decent for the money we are spending.  Compared to France or the rest of the OECD, we pay less—the average purchasing power is around $4,000. We are spending roughly $2,000. Our outcomes are not bad for that amount of money. The challenge is figuring out how to use that money next year to raise our quality—increasing quality results in improved sustainability. 

A further opportunity that has emerged recently is protecting personal medical data, covered by the first GDPR code of conduct recently approved by the European Union. Our code of conduct, the first in the European Union for public and private entities, was approved by the National Office of Data Protection in Poland under the GDPR. While there were several smaller codes for private facilities like doctor's offices, we are the first to provide a code for the entire industry. In 2024, The Federation will encourage its members to sign up for this code of conduct, abide by it, and enhance it to improve the rights of patients. 

Sustainability encompasses digital transformation. Poland has achieved several victories in digital change, exemplified by implementing the Electronic Prescription system nationwide.  All patients and doctors have access to it. As a patient, I can use my phone to access my online patient account to view prescriptions. I can also go to any pharmacy that can scan the QR code on the prescription and provide me with my medication. Our goal is to incorporate that system into hospital information systems by 2024. 

In addition, rather than replacing physicians, we are considering utilizing artificial intelligence more frequently, emphasizing augmented intelligence. We are looking at chatbots in Poland to assist us with scheduling and rescheduling meetings. Under the guidance of the Polish Hospital Federation, we will be hosting a national campaign to highlight the use of AI.  

Last year, 17 million appointments were made by patients who did not subsequently show up. Poland has the chance to highlight the significance of the problem and what we can all do to make it easier for patients to cancel appointments if they cannot attend. Chatbots are the tools that we are already developing to solve this issue. Chatbots can also be used to gather medical histories from patients. The Federation is working on several projects to support entrepreneurs in artificial intelligence. 

Finally, another interesting prospect for the upcoming year is to carry out our project and initiative on the well-being of medical staff. This is not the typical type of green initiative, but it is a part of ESG under the governance and social issues. We will continue to support the foundation, which is a part of the Polish Hospital Federation's ecosystem and provides free psychological and psychiatric consultations to medical professionals to help them deal with burnout. This will be funded by a grant from Poland's Ministry of Health. We have a lot of opportunities for the upcoming year, many of which are related to ESG. 

EF: You represent more than 500 hospitals. How do you decide what the Federation should focus on next, regarding priority and balance? 

JJF Finding the ideal balance is a difficult undertaking. There are three types of members in a large organization: inactive, somewhat active, and active. The most involved members and our High Council, whose leadership roles are held by the top hospital directors in the nation, are where we acquire our ideas. We get our ideas from the best of the best.  

We engage in a lot of international activity. Some of our ideas come from our international partners. If our ideas are prioritized by worldwide hospital groups such as IHF, we also make them our top priority. We believe that IHF's sustainability center is a fantastic idea. By working with international organizations, we validate our thoughts, and if we observe that they are acting similarly, we know that this is the proper project to work on. 

Additionally, we have bilateral cooperation with Romanians and the German Hospital Federation. We attend the congresses and believe that the International Hospital Federation, the European Hospital Federation, and what is happening around us should be at the top of the list of priorities. We also consider the suggestions made by our members. Our Federation is keen on cross-generational cooperation. We have young people in leadership positions with the Federation. Young people submit ideas, and the board verifies them. Our decision-making process for which ideas to pursue further and which to discard is multimodal. 

EF: What direction do you see the industry taking in the future? What trends do you observe in Poland? 

JJF: Our industry is highly specialized. We were hailed as heroes two years ago for saving lives from COVID-19. Society now holds us to odd expectations, and we are no longer considered heroes. Following the pandemic, the quality of services has declined, and their costs have increased due to inflation. Society expects that we can increase quality at a cheaper cost. To live up to that goal, we are searching for and developing technologies such as chatbots to improve our safety, economy, and ability to support our human resources. We are looking to partner with members of society to help us achieve this initiative. Most of the world is dealing with deficiencies in healthcare staffing. Poland has a low number of nurses compared to the number of doctors. The nurse-to-doctor ratio is unhealthy. The healthcare sector has proven many times that we are the safety institutions for people in times of crisis, and we will keep on functioning as such. 

We drive robotics innovation and digitalization through artificial intelligence and augmented technology, such as voice recognition software and chatbots. We must not overlook the needs of the patients in the interim. They are searching for human connection and empathy. We also consider the health of our medical personnel. That implies that hospitals will soon be more patient- and family-friendly, technologically sophisticated, and ecologically pleasant. This is what society should anticipate. More potent technology will be employed to treat illnesses. We should also clarify that hospitals are a sick person's final resort. 

With the help of increasing funding and technological developments, we may anticipate performing better each year. We are expanding our financial investment in healthcare to achieve the best outcomes. At the same time, we are implementing sustainability methods to reduce our environmental impact, provide a more comfortable work and patient environment, and lower our carbon footprint. 

EF: What are the greatest accomplishments you will celebrate as you mark 15 years of the Polish Hospital Federation? 

JJF: In 2 years, when we mark 15 years of the Polish Hospital Federation, we want to celebrate the launch of Poland's new healthcare model, which is founded on value-based healthcare and may serve as an inspiration to other countries. The concept we intend to provide is predicated on consortia for coordinated care competing for a value for patients and their quantified value. In conclusion, we would like to celebrate the development and application of value-based healthcare in Poland. 

February 2024