While the full impact of 2020 is not yet known, one thing is certain: we are entering a new era. Halfway into 2021, we step back in retrospect to review healthcare’s progress and assess our action items for healthcare captured in this year’s Outlook Report, Healthcare from Everywhere

Transform Care

Action Item: Adopting holistic care that addresses behavioral health and social determinants

2020 brought widespread hardship and unexpected challenges for many. In particular, the need to adopt holistic care – and the reprioritization to address behavioral and social determinants – is more pressing than ever. As part of its Empowering Health initiative, UnitedHealthcare has awarded over $40 million in grants across 29 states to community-based organizations that address care access and social determinants for underserved populations. By expanding offerings and pursuing new levels of access, healthcare can serve both rising demand and societal health through community, payer and provider partnerships. For mental health and social determinants to be a ubiquitous part of the healthcare system, stakeholders must ensure equal access and drive the continuity of quality care through digital solutions.

Action Item: Accelerating the move to value-based care models with digital transformation

Healthcare has many facets, all of which are seeing massive increases in post-pandemic demand. Hospital outpatient departments, ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs), pharmacies, physician + specialist care offices are seeing double-digit growth projections for the foreseeable future. Meaning financing and incentivizing care in a way that is tied to value, not volume, is an opportunity to modernize care delivery. Humana continues to see success tied to value-based care models, particularly in the Medicare population. In April, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) selected the payer to participate in its value-based care transition program for traditional Medicare beneficiaries. A month into the program, Humana signed value-based contracts with 420 primary care providers. As the pandemic exposed the shortcomings of fee-based systems, leveraging data will be the key to benchmarking, establishing quality metrics and identifying risk. Ultimately improving visibility into health challenges and utilization patterns of attributed populations will help organizations stay ahead of avoidable spending.

Action Item: Building new solutions to provide digital care

As our world reopens, all eyes turn to the future of telehealth and the staying power of demand. Research from McKinsey discovered around 40% of surveyed consumers would continue to use telehealth going forward, up from 11% using telehealth prior to COVID-19. As of now, consumers see telehealth as an important modality for their future needs and it’s on healthcare stakeholders to embed telehealth in the care continuum at scale. Telehealth is here to stay, but we have work to do on designing the benefit as a seamless integration into care delivery.

Engage Consumer

Action Item: Moving beyond the digital front door to enable a seamless, simpler patient experience

As the pandemic reshaped care delivery through nontraditional platforms, healthcare recognized the need to create value-rich experiences for consumers in a digital world. A KLAS report from February 2020 revealed that almost 60% of patients were looking forward to a better patient portal experience in the future. Evaluating digital maturity, assessing virtual needs and applying the right tools to enhance consumer relationships is a huge opportunity for growth and an increasingly important component of any business strategy. New digital touchpoints, if made right, could be the antidote to countless pain points providers and patients encounter every day. As our world adopts a virtual mindset, stakeholders will find that investing in, scaling up and increasing access through digital solutions will be an important and effective way to engage consumers. 

Accelerate Insights

Action Item: Leveraging data as an asset to achieve strategic initiatives and high-quality healthcare

Healthcare captures and creates huge amounts of data, providing opportunities in both clinical and operational settings. Data lakes, predictive analytics, big data and AI are rising trends that can unlock disruptive innovation across the entire ecosystem. One example of this growing trend came in July, when Amazon made its healthcare data lake available to providers and life sciences organizations. Organizations that choose to leverage emerging technologies and data for relevant insights on who the human is at the center will find themselves at a competitive advantage over those that do not.

Action Item: Extending interoperability between payer, provider and patient touchpoints

With the increased use of EHRs, digital health and wearables, there’s an ever-present need for extending interoperability between payer, provider and consumer touchpoints. Between March 2020 and January of this year, CMS passed a series of Interoperability and Patient Access final rules, which lays the foundation for a more consumer-centric healthcare system that breaks down long-standing silos. However, leveraging the mandate as a springboard for disruptive innovation can create a more effective healthcare system that earns consumer trust, unveils new sources of internal value and drives operational efficiencies. 

Modernize Technology

Action Item: Modernizing technologies to enable a contemporary healthcare enterprise 

Seismic shifts from the pandemic prompted a coming of age for digital health ecosystems, and as demand exploded, the dollars have followed. According to Rock Health, the first half of 2021 closed with $14.7B invested across 372 US digital health deals, already surpassing all of 2020’s funding. Given the tailwind of transformation that the pandemic created, the CIO of 2021 should make the most of this momentum to continue driving digital and modernization initiatives – and remember it has deep pockets. 

Optimize Operations

Action Item: Automating processes to refocus time on more efficient, high-value tasks 

The demand to cut costs and improve technology gaps while improving patient care outcomes has driven the rapid adoption of AI and automation in healthcare. As healthcare leaders work to implement technology and methodologies in both clinical and administrative functions, it’s worth examining the impact a digital coworker has on operational efficiency. A 2020 report found that 90% of healthcare executives had an AI/automation strategy in place, up from only 53% in 2019. This number is only expected to grow as successful implementation reduces cognitive burdens, makes processes more accurate and consistent and lowers administrative costs to refocus resources on providing care, ultimately helping patients.

The Future is Here

While 2020 was the catalyst for all these transformative changes – for the remainder of this year healthcare will continue building on, refining and improving the groundwork to deliver context-aware, technology-enabled healthcare when and where people need it. As we make sense of this new landscape, bold new technology and industry collaboration will further digital transformation to make antiquated healthcare simply part of the past. 

Want to deliver better healthcare through digital transformation? Download the report, Healthcare from Everywhere, to explore insights from our 7th Annual emids Healthcare Summit and trends coming for 2021.

 

As a Principal at emids, Sophia Batallas has over 25 years of experience as a highly resourceful executive leader with experience in health care administration, nursing leadership, strategic planning, advisory consulting, project management, clinical informatics and process improvement. She has served as a change agent to promote clinician adoption of new technology and is consulted for her leadership skills in the transformation of clinical information processes across systems and stakeholders. Connect with Sophia on LinkedIn