In just ten weeks, healthcare practitioners and patients saw more changes in how care is delivered and managed than they had in the ten years previously. This included wide use of telehealth, remote work for back-office support, and visibility into supply chains. These changes were an evolution in progress due to a number of factors including availability and accessibility of technology as well as growth of consumerization and competition for healthcare services. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the acceptance of and movement toward these practices.
How the VA is Leading the Change in Healthcare
Telehealth had been gaining slow and steady usage. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been a leader in telehealth services for our nation’s veterans. The VA has been using telehealth to reach patients for many years. Private healthcare providers saw the example of success the VA had with telehealth but struggled with how to charge (and get reimbursed) for telehealth services. Once those restrictions on payment were lifted, healthcare organizations were able to quickly scale out investments they had made in small pilots of telehealth to expand its use.
This ability to offer telehealth will remain critical as healthcare organizations must compete against insurance companies offering their own virtual health and wellness programs, and the growth of retail health clinics providing a convenient option for people to get preventative care outside of a traditional doctor’s office. This competition is not the only threat to the profitability of conventional health systems. The pandemic also highlighted problems in a business model that proved unstable when elective procedures were halted.
The pandemic also brought issues with equity in access to healthcare in poor and rural communities to the forefront as an issue that will continue impacting citizens long after the pandemic is under control. Telehealth holds great promise in closing this gap.
Healthcare Community Resources
We have a host of government white papers that can help healthcare practitioners and those that serve the industry navigate the new reality of healthcare delivery.
- Patient Outreach That Goes Far Beyond the Hospital Bedside Delivers Results – It is standard practice in the healthcare industry for hospitals to provide assistance for their self-pay patients who are applying for resources to help cover their bills. This paper details how technology can help secure additional coverage/increase reimbursement, extend patient engagement to high need/at-risk patients, and coordinate benefits.
- Improving Access to Care for Rural Communities During COVID-19 – The coronavirus crisis is exacerbating the already well-documented challenges of delivering health care to rural areas – including a lack of providers, insufficient health care infrastructure, and unsustainable financial models to support the delivery of the care that’s needed. This piece discusses how healthcare insurance providers are responding to this reality for COVID and beyond.
- The Evidence Base for Telehealth: Reassurance in the Face of Rapid Expansion During the COVID-19 Pandemic – This white paper summarizes the findings of two reports on telehealth: (1) an evidence map on the impact of telehealth on patient outcomes, and (2) a systematic review of the evidence about telehealth for acute- and chronic-care consultations to show the benefits of the rapid expansion of telehealth.
- Actions Toward Equity – This report highlights winners of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Culture of Health Prize to show strategies communities are using to ensure everyone has a fair and just opportunity for health.