September 23, 2021 | Lynn Schear
Telehealth usage exploded thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Now that more systems are up and running – and being infused with innovation on a regular basis – a hybrid care model is coming into focus, with virtual care being utilized for about half of provider-patient interactions moving forward.
In some areas, virtual care has been a revelation. Rural communities are more connected to specialists. Many patients seeking mental health treatment feel more secure talking from home. And military families can maintain provider relationships through repeated, chaotic relocations. However, the bigger the healthcare organization, the bigger the task when it comes to digital implementation.
The Chartis Group, a consulting firm, recently reported that 52% of healthcare executives say they haven’t progressed beyond the pilot stages of digital integration, though they understand the need and the urgency. Of the same executives surveyed, 80% planned to increase their digital investments in the near future.
Taking provider visits online is just one aspect of the transformation ahead. Front office work and population health analysis are more efficient by leaps and bounds with every technological advance – at a time when physician and nursing shortages are forcing the issue. But the more virtual healthcare becomes, the more vulnerable health systems could be.
Digital's inherent risks
Health systems have no choice but to prioritize digital security. More and more, they’re teaming up with firms that offer compliance services to protect patient privacy and meet government standards. This goes hand in hand with protection in the realm of data breaches and cyberattacks, where healthcare has been a prominent target.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 800 cases are under active investigation regarding data breaches in healthcare, with over 55 million people affected nationwide in the past two years alone.
And with ransomware attacks periodically forcing major health systems offline, both the continuity of patient care and financial stability of institutions are being disrupted.
With digital tools finally being viewed as critical infrastructure, health systems are looking for products, services and training for employee systems, but they’re looking for bigger partners, too. This has led to a surge of specialized startups focused on healthcare, offering secure cloud hosting and next-level protection from cyberattacks.
Innovating with value in mind
Tracking and leveraging patient data is moving beyond its established priorities, which have included platforms for specialist referrals, electronic medical records and billing portals.
Accountable Care Organizations, like UnityPoint Health in Iowa and Southwestern Health Resources in Texas, are showing physicians that their government-approved, next-generation models of care can increase profits and job satisfaction. One key aspect of the next-gen ACO model is population health analysis, which requires powerful software solutions to crunch more and more data aimed at insightful prevention. But successful population health programs are more than a numbers game.
"Will knowing your readmission rate help you to drive change in your readmission rate?" asked Nick Stepro, chief product officer of population health management company Arcadia, at a recent conference. "You need to know what products to build and what’s the net benefit beforehand."
Because population health requires robust participation, health systems are hiring businesses to help them view patients as customers who need communication at every step of their value-based journey. Next-generation ACOs are tasked with constant innovation to maintain their preferred reimbursement status, so they’re always looking for fresh ideas and services.
Diversity is not optional
If there’s one word healthcare leaders are focusing on as much as “digital,” it’s “diversity.” The need to provide better care in inclusive ways is at the top of the list for health systems. And it starts with a focus on internal hiring and teamwork.
"When we proactively incorporate diversity, we see an increase in the amount of creativity and innovation that's brought forward by a group or team. If you couple high diversity with strong inclusiveness and equity, you can really bring different perspectives together in a healthy way," said Michele Holcomb, VP of Cardinal Health, in a recent talk with Forbes.
Companies with better diversity and more women in leadership roles consistently see higher profits, but an understanding of racial, ethnic and religious differences is even more vital in healthcare. Patients are becoming more proactive, and they’re open to new care delivery models that resonate with their lives.
"There's a real question how much patience patients will have," Holcomb said. "Are they going to wait for traditional healthcare players to catch up to their expectations, or will they increasingly look to disruptors, tech players and others who are coming into the space?"
Healthcare disruption shows no signs of slowing, and rapid innovation is the new everyday. With more federal funding being released by the Biden administration, health systems and the companies that serve them need the best data possible to cut through the noise and seize new opportunities.
If you're ready to brainstorm your next steps or explore customized, affordable healthcare data, reach out to an MCH expert today to get started.
More Insight From MCH
Check out our recent blog on how COVID-19 continues to force healthcare changes.
Find out how and why the pandemic has changed U.S. healthcare forever.
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