3 Essentials For Healthcare’s Post-Pandemic Future

Post-Pandemic Healthcare

Resourcefulness became a survival tactic for the healthcare delivery system in 2020 as providers contorted their business models under the strains of the global pandemic. But as a new outlook emerges for the months ahead, stakeholders are re-engineering in a more methodical way.

They acknowledge the real opportunity to embrace change at this unique crossroads. They also know those who simply yield back to healthcare’s status quo of the past will likely fail.

Volume-based, fee-for-service models are on a downslide. And actions to suppress data, rather than share it across the healthcare ecosystem, are certain to lead to obsolescence. Only by recalibrating for a distinctly different future will healthcare’s established players survive.

With more intense pressure on margins, hospitals and health systems must reinvent themselves to:

  1. Embrace helpful technologies
  2. Focus on whole-person health
  3. Craft a better consumer experience

And each of these strategies must produce better quality and lower costs.

Cover of Post-Covid Delivery Systems White Paper

3 elements will define the post-COVID future: technology, integrated care, and consumerism. Read more in this free white paper.

Care is enabled by effective technologies

While telehealth utilization was already increasing in previous years, the pandemic quickly accelerated its adoption. Federal regulators loosened restrictions, and changes in reimbursement policies by commercial payers encouraged providers to deliver more care via telephone and video visits.

The technology was available, and consumers enjoyed the convenience of telehealth. But it was the soundness of the payment structure that finally pushed telehealth to the forefront at the height of the pandemic. In the future, however, tech-enabled care delivery must expand above and beyond telehealth, further advancing the ongoing shift from hospital-based care to care within the community.

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) will be one of the key enablers in the post-pandemic era, allowing more care delivery in the patient’s home. Not only will RPM expand in frequency of use, it will also expand in scope in the months ahead.

Heart failure, pneumonia, and recovery after surgical procedures are excellent candidates for home healthcare models made possible by RPM technologies. Through tech-enabled platforms, patients with relatively high-acuity conditions — previously managed in a hospital — will have the option to receive care in a home setting. Viable reimbursement arrangements coupled with the need for flexible inpatient capacity will drive greater RPM use.

Even more so, healthcare stakeholders are realizing the value proposition of RPM with its early demonstrations of lower costs, good quality, and high patient satisfaction. RPM holds promise in the post-pandemic future for health systems that are willing to reduce their reliance on inpatient capacity and transform to accelerate tech-enabled care delivery in the community.

Care is integrated to address whole-person health

Even as technologies advance care delivery outside of the four walls of a hospital, the need for an authentic relationship between patients and their care teams remains. No technology can fully take the place of a personal clinical alliance, and consideration must be given to the unique needs of specific populations.

In the post-pandemic future, health systems that double down on integrated care that addresses whole-person health will gain enhanced reimbursement as a result of improved overall outcomes for patients. Tactical elements will initially include greater emphasis on treating behavioral health concerns — the prevalence of which increased dramatically during the pandemic.

Loneliness, fear, financial strain, and uncertainty about the future became unmanageable for many. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in June 2020 found that 40.9 percent of U.S. adults reported at least one adverse behavioral health condition, not the least of which were diagnoses of anxiety and depression. Meanwhile, the number of deaths linked to drug overdoses climbed to an all-time high in 2020.

Such behavioral health conditions are also notorious for complicating chronic disease management, resulting in worse outcomes and disproportionately higher costs. Systemwide improvement in the months ahead must include timely, patient-centered integration of care for mental health and substance use disorders.

Additionally, care providers aiming to address whole-person health will likely rely on new partnerships. Collaborators might include community-based organizations that can support a patient’s successful life in recovery from behavioral health conditions or solve for social determinants of health within a population.

Care meets consumer expectations

In the post-pandemic future, health systems and hospitals must meet patients where they’re at. And that means a convenient, online-shopping type of experience powered by intelligent technology that makes interactions seem effortless.

The brick-and-mortar hospital or office setting — previously the only options for patient access to services — will no longer be the exclusive sites of care. Those that offer “care everywhere” and easy-to-use digital solutions with a personal touch will become the providers of choice.

Without a doubt, consumers appreciate convenience in their healthcare dealings, especially among younger generations. They want access to hospitals, the local doctor’s office, urgent care and retail clinics, telehealth, home health, and even smartphone apps that complement other services. In fact, among those who track their health with smartphone apps, 77 percent say it changes their behavior, according to a study by Deloitte.

Consumers also want “data everywhere.” When data is democratized, they can easily access their diagnostic test results or the price of a joint replacement surgery at every hospital within 50 miles of home, for example. This democratization will offer competitive advantages to providers that know how to respond to market forces.

Meanwhile, consumers are entirely ready for all the new perspectives brought to healthcare from non-traditional players such as Amazon, Google, and Walmart. A majority of consumers (58 percent) say they want an unencumbered disrupter to arrive in the market and offer new and improved healthcare experiences that they aren’t getting now.

In the post-pandemic future, healthcare’s winners and losers will be defined by a new nimbleness that shifts the perspective from the system’s priorities to the consumer’s priorities. Those that transition from centralized healthcare in brick-and-mortar settings to care everywhere and make interactions easy, convenient, and seamless for the consumer will have the unequivocal strategic advantage.

See what else our research has uncovered about the post-pandemic future in healthcare. Download our complimentary white paper now!