The future of healthcare has been a vibrant national topic for over a decade, with concepts ranging from the vertical integration of services to the possibilities of emerging technology for diagnosis support and disease management. Many organizations had huddles of talented and experienced people talking about innovation. Yet, patients were left wondering if healthcare was even participating in the digital transformation and customer-focused innovations they were experiencing across financial services, retail-based markets, etc. Healthcare organizations were moving slowly – too slowly.
The pace changed suddenly with the onset of the recent pandemic. A marked example was the application of a widely available and practical healthcare tool: providers started seeing patients and delivering care via telehealth. Of course, telehealth itself is not the high-tech, edgy technology that truly has the potential to transform the future of healthcare. And yet combined with natural language processing technology, it has the power to re-capture the patient-provider relationship, reduce scribe costs and physician burn-out, and expedite claims processing. Telehealth is the first step to opening many important doors, and it has taught us one very important lesson:
If we challenge ourselves to reimagine the patient experience, we can engage the patient more effectively outside of traditional boundaries, and both improve patient outcomes and run healthcare operations more efficiently.
The necessity of patient safety required that healthcare organizations leverage telehealth for business continuity. Patients needed remote access to care, and the need was met well with basic processes and technology that were already available. As the funding constraints were released, the market grew exponentially. Forty-two percent of US adults have used telehealth services since the beginning of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, with sixty-five percent reporting the reason as more convenient than meeting in an office, and sixty-three percent reporting that it reduced the risk of being exposed to other potentially ill patients (Medical Economics, May 2020). The necessity of safety during these waves of the pandemic is proving that not only can telehealth be effective, but that patients actually prefer it in many cases for convenience or access to specialists across geographies.
The Trifecta of Innovation will drive the future of healthcare as organizations navigate through waves of the pandemic and rising demands for patient access and improved outcomes.
1. Product Leadership via Seamless Point of Care: Healthcare organizations bring unparalleled value to patients and differentiate against new market entrants with productized hospital-home services.
2. Customer Intimacy via Patient Safety Journey: Healthcare organizations address the full loop of home-hospital-home from the point of decision to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection and assuage fears for necessary office visits and elective procedures.
3. Operational Excellence via Adaptive Operations Architecture: Hospitals pull key levers to re-architect through an abundance mindset, resulting in adaptive systems that deploy resources more effectively.
Seamless Point of Care
This concept focuses on patient experience, specifically more frequent and convenient care management that spans from inside to outside the healthcare organization walls. It enables patients and their caregivers to engage more effectively and partner with healthcare organizations to improve outcomes. There are foundational models that already exist within the home health service provider systems that should be noted, as these programs are built around combining better outcomes with patient quality of life and independence – the future integration across patient care phases could in itself create significant improvements. Seamless point of care is also a fulcrum for wellness and prevention, as remote care for chronic disease management, wearable-based monitoring, direct-to-patient labs, door-delivered prescriptions, etc. are all rising in consumer demand. Hospitals and other healthcare organizations will need to consider vertical integrations and patient-centered care to compete with major disruptors.
Patient Safety Journey challenges organizations to reach beyond their walls and ensure the full loop of home-hospital-home accounts for patient safety and that barriers are reduced for engaging patients who need in-person care to visit their providers and proceed with elective procedures during the waves of COVID-19 and future pandemics. There are opportunities to address both safety and convenience with contactless and remote pre-authorization, home-based vital and lab processing, and post-visit communication, as well.
Ultimately, hospitals will need to re-architect operations to be adaptive. This will require challenging the traditional structures and hierarchies to re-leverage talent and group into more effective teams. Integrated care – eliminating fragmented approach across specialties, study-to-diagnosis-to-treatment, etc. – will be a critical leverage point in the system. The foundation of this re-architecture is based in an abundance model, where resources are re-distributed by value stream and critical personnel, processes, and resources are leveraged more strategically. Workforce transformation will be central to moving into adaptive operations, and emerging technology with predictive modeling, AI-based decision support, and other forward-looking operations information will become as necessary.