What’s Next for Healthcare IT? Innovations That Can Help Healthcare Operations Thrive During and Beyond the Pandemic
When COVID-19 became a pandemic, entire industries were turned upside down. In the case of my healthcare clients, one of two things happened. Either their patient volumes accelerated exponentially, or their operations came to an abrupt halt. Elective surgeries and well visits were cancelled in mass as emergency rooms erected triage centers under tents in their parking lots. Whether your patient volumes skyrocketed or evaporated, every healthcare systems and practices is experiencing operational disruption, and they’re going to have to make changes to thrive in this new landscape. And if they’re not thinking about technology as the X factor that could shake them out of their operational struggles, they should be. Just as many other industries pounced on the opportunity to bring their work online this spring, healthcare leaders must be thinking and acting strategically in digital spaces.
Leveraging telehealth to grow your market share
Care providers know that the health of the population as well as the most successful health outcomes come when there is early detection and intervention. So while many in the population are foregoing non-essential outings and missing a haircut or two, well visits and follow up appointments can’t (or shouldn’t) be skipped so easily. We can’t pause treatment plans or checkups for the foreseeable future. Healthcare issues are still occurring. Doctors need to be able to engage with patients, and specialists need to be able to follow up.
As care providers seek alternative ways to engage with their patients for checkups and well visits, telehealth—a practice that has been steadily growing in the last few decades—is suddenly exploding. Healthcare providers in cities with larger populations likely already have some operational resources dedicated to telehealth, but telehealth should not be limited to tier-one cities and communities. Growing telehealth operations could be a fruitful way for practitioners to see their current patients and grow their reach.
In rural areas, for example, where the nearest doctor is the community ER and the population size can’t support the brick-and-mortar presence of some specialists, there’s a fair amount of available market share where the right telehealth practices grow dramatically. Whether in cities or suburbs, adopters in the telemedicine space have traditionally been younger generations, but for care providers to support their patients during COVID-19, they’ll have to consider their over-50 patient communities and understand what user experiences or use cases might be most meaningful to them. Patients over the age of 50 are more likely to be at risk for health concerns, and less likely to feel comfortable with technology. This is an imperative conundrum to solve for—both to ensure the continued health of the over-50 patient population as well as the operational success of care providers.
Investing in data science and data analytics
To capitalize on the current digital trends in medicine and scale them sustainably, healthcare systems will not only need an inclination to innovate but a strategic plan and talented teams to develop and implement these innovations effectively. Dedicating resources to fields like data analytics, including data collection and data architecture, to understand where the practices can and are growing will be essential to the success of your organization’s innovations.
Mobile application development in the healthcare space and telehealth are areas that were already expanding rapidly before COVID-19, and they stand to grow exponentially now. Investments in mobile application development will likely be necessary for your practice or system to adequately innovate your operations. Healthcare operations are more complicated than other businesses in brick-and-mortar spaces and that won’t change if you find ways to innovate online. Everything from the necessary information security to be HIPAA compliant to the backend solutions in the payer space will need to be properly developed. And all of this work will take a talented bench of talent. Healthcare IT is a vast landscape that in uncertain times like these can feel overwhelming. But one of the best things to come out of COVID-19 will most certainly be the innovation it inspires. Necessity will always be the mother of invention, and in a time of abundant need for change, tech has a proven track record when it comes to being a rich vein for solutions that can scale. The healthcare systems and practice groups that seize this moment will come out on top.