Crisis breeds innovation. Whether it be technological, philosophical, political, or societal, people innovate when faced with adversity. This is especially true in health care. Following the Spanish Flu, the need to understand the origins of the disease led to the creation of the flu vaccine. Subsequent studies that used this as its foundation, coupled with collaboration across research organizations, led to further advancements such as the discovery of DNA. While COVID-19 has had a catastrophic impact on society and the economy, the gears of innovation have already started to move. As a result, the Health Care Sector is going to come out on the other side, looking significantly different. In this series, we will explore where the industry is trending and what organizations can do today to ensure success moving forward.
To understand where we are heading, we need to know where we are. To keep it simple, the pandemic can be divided into three stages.
- Phase I ” Reactionary ” The virus appears and begins to spread. The primary focus is on containment and flattening the curve enough to ensure that health care providers have enough capacity to care for COVID-19 patients.
- Phase II ” Living with COVID-19 ” The interim period. The shock of the virus has worn off, and society must navigate a world where the risk of COVID persists. Pharmaceutical companies and governments work to find a vaccine, and health care providers must reopen other services while mitigating the risk of exposure.
- Phase III ” Post-COVID-19 ” A vaccine is discovered. Society can begin to return to “normal”. However, a new baseline will be established, and organizations will have to decide how they will operate moving forward as the pandemic’s full impact becomes known.
We are currently in Phase II; however, the most successful organizations are going to think about Phase III, and the investments they can make to be prepared.
Trends that will persist beyond COVID-19
1. Collaboration and investment in technology to boost health care outcomes
The current state of emergency has resulted in an acceleration of an existing trend towards investments in technology to boost outcomes and care. Technology companies like NVIDIA and Phillips are collaborating with research and health care firms to accelerate discoveries related to COVID-19, and governments are loosening regulations to incentivize innovation and collaboration.
Telehealth technologies have seen significant adoption since the onset of the pandemic and are poised to have long-term impacts. Over a two-month period, some providers have seen telehealth volumes jump from two daily visits to over 4,000 daily visits. While in Pharma and Biotech, organizations are adopting telehealth to monitor trial groups remotely. While new CMS guidelines and the need to minimize exposure risk served as the initial catalyst, patient adoption and increased efficiency will lead to the continued and increased use of this technology.
2. Re-assessing care models and r
As the pandemic stretches out, organizations are inadvertently exposed to many risks that will require consideration and planning to address appropriately. While the breadth of these risks will not be known for quite some time, there are some trends emerging including:
- Chronic conditions that are falling through the cracks as people avoid visits to their doctors will require attention.
- Services and pricing will need to be restructured to accommodate new technologies such as telehealth and eRx.
- Patient satisfaction will require close monitoring as virtual care options become more prevalent, and interoperability guidelines come into play.
- Shifting employer and employee behaviors regarding benefits will require greater customization and flexibility in group and retail plans.
3. Improving care through mergers and acquisition
As collaboration increases, so too will opportunities to increase efficiencies in care and patient experience through acquisition. This trend has been prevalent in the sector for quite some time, as evidenced by health systems merging to expand coverage beyond one or two cities to entire regions. Some historical provider organizations have even moved beyond the space to enter the pharmacy and payer spaces and vice-versa. Amid COVID-19 this is seen as health systems acquire or partner with telehealth technologies to bolster their capabilities. As technologies improve and interoperability becomes the norm, this trend will only continue.
The complete impact of COVID-19 will not be understood for years, but history has shown that crisis is often followed by periods of innovation. Current trends indicate that the speed of business within the health care industry is accelerating. Innovation will breed further innovation. Successful organizations will set themselves up for the new norm by ensuring they have the right tools in place to facilitate quick analysis, timely decision making, and robust engagement with customers and patients around their investments and new product offerings.
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