The United States healthcare system has been a topic of debate for years. Questions such as how can we improve the delivery of care? And how can we lower the cost of care? are most frequently asked. At the end of March 2020, the United States was ranked as one of the top 10 most technologically advanced countries in the world. When a global pandemic struck the country, however, the healthcare system and the technology that drives it brought the country to its knees. Suddenly, healthcare organizations were overwhelmed with sick patients, the technology used to treat and save lives was under strain, there was fear of a lack of beds, a lack of healthcare professionals, and much more. What COVID-19 has taught us is that once we have this health crisis under control, there will be a new normal in healthcare. The question is, what will healthcare look like after COVID-19?
The current focus in healthcare is dealing with the near-term challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has created. However, beyond the current crisis, we are already identifying and noticing significant changes that will become part of the new normal. These include the sudden importance of telemedicine, the regulatory changes impacting billing, and the use of location data to track the disease. We, as consumers, are going to have to change our behaviors, and healthcare organizations will have to change how they deliver care. More than anything, though, is the population will not want to go back to “the way things were” because we are seeing how well many of these changes are working. The way healthcare organizations prepare will change because the last thing that we want to happen is another pandemic outbreak that we are unprepared to handle.
Regulatory changes instituted by CMS will play a significant role in the new normal, post-COVID-19. Everything from increased hospital capacity and Medicare specific directives, to billing and other initiatives, will all play a vital role in how healthcare will be shaped moving forward.
The new normal won’t just affect healthcare organizations and healthcare workers. The companies that provide technologies and services will also be affected. New technologies will potentially need to be developed or advanced, and the security of technology will need to be carefully examined to ensure that anything done remotely is secure and HIPAA compliant. The companies that provide these services will have to look at how they deliver them, and healthcare organizations may realize that remote work, such as consulting, is the wave of the future moving forward. Fewer people coming into hospitals reduces the risk of social spread in cases such as COVID-19. The change will not be swift; it will be meticulous across the board.
While there is sure to be a vast number of technological changes and advancements, a small sample of the technologies that may be part of the new normal include:
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there have also been a lot of lessons learned. The new normal will include changes that directly affect healthcare; however, they won’t be driven by healthcare organizations. Some areas of concern include:
Another aspect of the new normal involves the financial strain that many healthcare organizations are experiencing. With elective surgeries on hold for the foreseeable future, and almost all resources going towards COVID-19, many hospitals and clinics will be forced to close. The new normal may bring fewer places to go when you are sick; however, a positive side effect may be increased and improved data sharing so that wherever you go, access to your records is available.
What healthcare will look like in the future is anyone’s guess, but there will undoubtedly be changes because of COVID-19. There will be struggles, and there will be advances, but in the end, whatever ends up being the new normal will significantly impact healthcare organizations and consumers. Stay tuned!