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On the Other Side of the Pandemic

Could healthcare go back to the way it was pre-pandemic? COVID-19 had a sudden and significant impact on individuals around the world and in nearly every industry, including healthcare. According to McKinsey’s Health System Financial Resilience Survey, nearly half (45%) of the CFOs surveyed expect it to take more than 18 months to return to pre-COVID-19 revenues, and 84% believe the negative impact on their operating margin to persist through 2021. Going back isn’t an option; the way forward is looking at the trends that have been growing over the last decade, which trends proved useful at the height of pandemic confusion and hospitalizations, and figuring out how to adjust business strategies to future-proof healthcare organizations.

The novel coronavirus accelerated and intensified trends that were already well-underway in healthcare, especially the push for next-generation cloud software. The pandemic has created stronger incentives for digital transformation and opportunities within technology for providers to automate processes and adapt best practices. Hospitals that have modernized technology have likely started seeing the benefits of those investments and those that haven’t will have to run faster to catch up.

So, what are the other trends that will intensify in 2021?

Patient care will continue to extend beyond the four walls of the hospital.

Good health begins at home and extends into the community. Providers will need to think about the technology they deploy, the resources they have available and how to optimize them, as well as opportunities to streamline operations to protect frontline medical workers, deliver the best patient care, and support public health.

Telehealth visits surged during the pandemic, and virtual visits will be a part of the process in the future.

While the peak of the pandemic had home visits as standard, post-pandemic success is more likely a hybrid model, with some visits appropriate for taking place virtually and others requiring an in-person visit. Connected health tools and easy processes will deliver the consumer-grade experience patients expect while also benefiting providers and staff. Integrating with the electronic health record is key to ensuring the provider has information on the patient prior to the appointment and that notes are entered into the medical record for future care opportunities.

The emphasis on interoperability is consistent with the move to paperless processes, as well as the need for more visibility across clinical and operational functions.

As a result, increasing operational resilience will remain high on the priority list. Cloud has emerged as an empowering technology to fulfill immediate crisis needs, and it provides the scalability needed for long-term strategies, business continuity, and risk mitigation.

Combating burnout for nurses and physicians.

While the technology boom in healthcare has brought end-to-end improvements for hospitals and health systems, when the technology is not designed with the user in mind, it can lead to serious frustrations. Burnout is a significant problem in healthcare, even pre-pandemic, driven up by after-hours charting. It is suspected this extra time needed to enter information is a result of a lack of EHR personalization for doctors and healthcare staff. Healthcare leaders should consider carving out time for their teams to work with healthcare IT professional to help personalize the EHR experience, allowing physicians to spend less time navigating the tool.

Healthcare is the most complex industry, and changes are typically slow. Although these trends have been underway, healthcare has no choice but to figure things out and quickly. As we head into an unknown new normal, healthcare, a perennial laggard in technology-driven transformation, has just been rocketed into the future.