3 Digital Strategic Priorities for the Next Normal

3 Digital Strategic Priorities for the Next Normal. A clinician holds a virtual image of a coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) cell in her hands with a network of responses to the pandemic displayed on a screen.

It can be difficult to assess precisely where we are in the life of the COVID-19 pandemic, let alone what to expect on the road to the next normal. A recent report, “Journey Toward the Next Normal,” from the Providence Digital Innovation Group provides some answers and examines the role that technology and digital health will play in achieving this transformation.

Chart: The emergence of COVID-19 has catalyzed change along two vectors for health systems: (1) Mobilization and Mitigation: The mobilization of resources to respond to the initial outbreak and the ongoing mitigation of outbreaks through health system- and employer-led public health and digital innovations to reduce the impact of future outbreaks. (2) Recovery and Evolution: The impact to the traditional fee-for-service, hospital-centric health system COVID-19 has delivered will accelerate business model changes, new entrants, and the adoption of new technologies to support these new models and entrants. Systems will need to recover quickly their old business models to buy time as they make their journey toward alternative payment models. Source: Providence Digital Innovation Group, 2020.The report, based on the nonprofit health system’s experience and interviews with more than 100 health system, technology and innovation leaders, notes that the biggest factors in creating the next normal will involve changing business models and accelerating a health system’s ability to manage risk. One reason: Health systems that have sponsored health plans and extensive risk contracts have seen a smaller impact from COVID-19 in the short term while those who depend on commercially insured procedures to cross-subsidize Medicare and Medicaid have seen deeper losses.

All health systems will start to feel the impact of declining commercial insured membership as the recession, at whatever duration, takes hold. That process has already begun. A recently released Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report shows that over the summer more than 3 million Americans lost employer-sponsored health coverage and 2 million became uninsured.

Facing this reality, health care providers will have to make major changes in care models, cost structure and the use of digital technology to recover.

3 Big Impacts and Outcomes to Anticipate

Distributed Care and Virtual Health

The surge in virtual care brought on by COVID-19 will begin an era of decentralization powered by virtual modalities and enablers of care in the home and outside health care facilities. This will require new payment, regulatory and operating models and a frictionless, connected experience to maintain and sustain digital adoption and distributed care models among patients and providers. This surge will have impacts across the care continuum ranging from hospital at home to remote patient monitoring, outpatient and nonurgent virtual care, and virtual chronic disease management.

Industry Consolidation

Consolidation of distressed and strategic assets, driven primarily by health plans and private equity, will impact standardization around technology platforms for integrated care systems and disrupt affiliated referral channels. Providers will need to focus on integration and referral management to ensure that business recovery and long-term business model goals can be achieved with this form of disruption.

New Workforce and Facility Models

Health care organizations have struggled to flex their workforce and facilities to respond to COVID-19, indicating a new need for flexibility that allows their workforce and facility adaptation across geographies and care modalities, including virtual, based on clinical need.

The Providence Digital Innovation Group has posted other reports online in its COVID-19 Digital Insights series on new workforce and facility models, distributed care and digital health acceleration, managing trust and safety and other topics.

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