Nothing has tested health care providers’ mettle to be more nimble, efficient and responsive than COVID-19. And now, with the future anything but clear, strategic thinkers, consultants and tech gurus have begun to reimagine the field’s future and what opportunities lie ahead.
Finding ways to improve amid current conditions won’t be easy, but “strategic issues can’t wait for the crisis to pass,” notes Kenneth Kaufman, managing director and chair of Kaufman, Hall & Associates Ltd., in a recent column on executive strategies for the post-COVID-19 era.
Based on conversations he has had with forward-looking health care executives across the country, Kaufman says leaders believe a period of great upheaval has only begun, with one source suggesting that health care will be changed by COVID-19 the way the airline industry was by 9/11.
5 Ways COVID-19 Is Changing Health Care
Evolving Payer Mix
With rising unemployment, fewer patients may have private insurance. As a result, providers may see more Medicaid and self-pay patients with an uncertain end date to this trend.
Widening Socioeconomic Disparities
America’s most vulnerable are being hit hardest in this economic crisis, which will make disparities even more evident. Hospitals and health systems need to sharpen their focus on social determinants of health.
Greater Demand for Value
Cost control for corporations will become paramount, which may lead some employers previously cool to narrow networks to rethink their positions.
Fresh Perspectives on Operations
Some executives may see opportunities they missed before the pandemic. One told Kaufman that running operating rooms 24/7 is an idea worth exploring while another plans to create a centralized OR schedule to reduce bottlenecks.
The pandemic has many executives recalling the 2008-2009 Great Recession and that health care now has faced two black-swan events in little more than a decade. Executives may need to focus on creating operating models that will be more protective during times of crisis.
As organizations adjust strategic plans in light of the changes the pandemic has provoked, technology and data strategy will play a central role in the process.
The Digitally Enabled Health Care Ecosystem
Finding new ways to examine data securely and collaboratively with tools, expertise and partnerships can bridge post-pandemic care delivery beyond bricks and mortar, John Halamka, M.D., president of the Mayo Clinic Platform, explained in a recent presentation.
Technology, Halamka says, can aid in developing longitudinal patient records, incorporating patient data from wearable devices and employing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
Having the ability to connect a variety of databases and sources to the electronic health record will be a key component to improving future care delivery. Several years ago, Mayo Clinic created a Universal Data Platform, a mechanism to take data marts, link them with universal identifiers, and then have one longitudinal view over the patient’s entire experience including inpatient, outpatient, ambulatory, home care, skilled nursing facility care, images and text.
In concert with Google, Mayo has created an AI factory for the organization, which examines preloaded, curated data, yet also enables an individual user to upload a local data set. Then they can use other tools to create algorithms that will have measurable impact, like examining electrocardiogram data from wearables to predict a person’s likelihood of developing atrial fibrillation in the future or neurological data to predict seizures.