This article was provided by: Cross Country Nurses.
In the midst of any crisis, one of the best ways to cope is to seek out any silver linings in order to remain positive and optimistic for the future. Certainly, the world hasn’t experienced anything quite like the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has undoubtedly brought disruptive changes, fear, and grief to the forefront.
Yet, as the world struggles to further contain the spread of COVID-19, there is an opportunity to learn from the past and look to a brighter future. This is true for healthcare leaders, who can take their learnings and experiences during the pandemic to drive both operational and quality of care improvements.
Technology and innovation have emerged as key areas in which the lessons learned from facing the COVID-19 crisis could help the industry thrive in the future.
Turning crisis into innovation
Due to the pandemic, healthcare leaders have looked to innovative technologies to help improve safer access to care, efficiencies, and speed of care delivery – even from afar. Health-focused tech companies are reporting surges in their business and noting many hospitals are now asking for emerging technologies to implement as soon as possible. Some of these include:
Mainstreaming of Telehealth
For the first time in more than 20 years, government officials, providers, health plans, and employers are recommending telehealth as the first choice for care, as opposed to an alternative – due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Before the pandemic, only 1 in 10 patients in the U.S. used telehealth, according to a J.D. Power survey. Now, health systems and private telehealth companies are seeing a dramatic increase in the use of telehealth – to the tune of digital visits climbing from 750% to 1,000% since the coronavirus became widespread.
Beyond the adoption of telehealth by providers, consumer opinions are changing as well. Almost three-quarters of patients polled for one recent survey said they’d consider using telehealth to be remotely screened for COVID-19 and two-thirds said the pandemic has increased their willingness to try virtual care.
In fact, a recent Cross Country Healthcare survey of healthcare leaders who indicated they were unprepared to handle the COVID-19 pandemic, 25% of them named “an effective telehealth service offering” as an area where they lacked preparation. And, with a surge in telehealth during the pandemic, many (50%) say they would have engaged more contracts and locums talent to boost their telemedicine capabilities.
These changes could be the turning point in telehealth utilization across the country, making virtual health visits mainstream and an easy alternative for receiving care for low-acuity needs. It could also be instrumental in providing much-needed services and improved access to care in rural communities.
Greater IT Strategic Planning
Strategic planning for enterprise-wide IT projects is a common practice among healthcare leaders. However, as many organizations accelerate their digital services, a greater need for additional long-term planning has emerged. As healthcare entities increase their focus on strategic planning for a post-pandemic environment, they have the opportunity to consider what technologies have worked, what challenges and risks they faced, and most importantly, what opportunities they have to move their organization forward utilizing innovative technologies.
A Move to Virtual Workspace
Many healthcare organizations are reporting up to a 50% increase in the number of remote workers they are supporting – this includes, providing virtual desktop interfaces, connectivity devices, and endpoint security. Operational planning is also needed to ensure enterprise IT systems support their virtual workers by providing a seamless flow of data.
This disruptive shift in technology resources and planning has created both opportunities and risks. While we don’t yet know the extent to which system vulnerabilities will be identified, the ability to support virtual teams on a large scale will rely on new and emerging recruitment and retention efforts.
Remote Patient Monitoring
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) has seen steady growth over the past two years, however, shelter-in-place orders have expedited that growth. Today, patients who are suspected of having COVID-19 can be closely monitored from afar, without bringing them to crowded hospitals. Further, other patients who require frequent contact with their doctors can maintain their conditions without leaving their homes.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Medicare coverage for RPM services was restricted to patients with one or more chronic conditions. In response to the current crisis, CMS has issued new regulatory policies around RPM – both for the duration of the pandemic and moving forward. Both the short-term and long-term, RPM is available for both acute and/or chronic conditions, providing an opportunity for further care innovations. In addition, CMS has outlined that RPM can be utilized for both new and established patients.
Better Access and Speed of Care Delivery
In communities across the country, fear of the COVID-19 virus continues to spread as fast as the virus itself. Patients are clamoring for advice from their providers who are working at warp speed to keep up with the demand. Many health systems have implemented call centers to help support patients and answer questions, with others are using self-triaging tools such as chatbots to help patients evaluate their symptoms before going to see a doctor.
In some instances, chatbots are equipped with answers to frequently asked questions, assessments related to COVID-19 symptoms, and opportunities to send messages directly to a physician. These innovations provide great hope for the future and the ability to evaluate patients, guide them through the care process, limit wait times, and avoid unnecessary emergency room visits.
The Age of Artificial Intelligence
Machine learning or artificial intelligence (AI) has produced tremendous benefits for healthcare providers by generating and analyzing patient, clinician, and health system data. It is already evolving at such a pace that it can now outperform humans on some specific tasks. The data intelligence it produces can help practitioners better predict, prevent, screen, and even diagnose disease.
Moving forward, big data also has the potential to help healthcare facilities and systems better predict key operational trends, such as patient volume, stay durations and care needs so they can better plan for clinical staffing. AI may soon replace the administrative tasks required by nurses, including ordering tests or compiling notes, but will also improve medical image analysis, screenings, and even support safer, higher quality care.
The next wave of innovation
Playing the role of an industry disruptor, technology and innovation have created the ability to build new, peripheral services to better support the healthcare sector. Products such as telemonitoring devices, home messaging services, and patient monitoring tools all have the opportunity to evolve and support patient care in the era of telehealth and AI services. These innovations present a whole new avenue for minimizing costs and improving access to care, during the pandemic and beyond.
We hope that you found this information on turning crisis into innovation helpful. Have you seen any ways your facilities/hospitals are turning this crisis into innovation? Comment them below.