So far, this year has thrown a lot of unexpected changes in the way of medical practices. COVID-19 has forced a lot of practices to pivot quickly and change a lot of their normal processes to accommodate new requirements and patient needs. Those that could not pivot quickly have had a harder time recovering.
Since the pandemic began to upend a lot of the “normal” healthcare processes, that has been a big topic of discussion with several of our recent guests on our Paradigm Shift of Healthcare Podcast. Two of our guests, Mike Biselli of BurstIQ and Dr. Daren Anderson of ConferMED, shared how health tech can help practices better navigate current challenges, as well as future changes that may occur.
Here, we’d like to share with you some of our key takeaways from our recent interviews.
1. Patients expect practices to embrace health tech.
As technology evolves and improves, patients expect their providers to get on board. Patients behave like consumers in any other industry. 15-20 years ago, the average person wasn’t accessing the internet from their mobile phones. Today, it’s expected that any new phone you get will have that capability.
Likewise, it was expected 15-20 years ago that you would have to sit in the waiting room and fill out a bunch of paperwork every time you saw your doctor. Now, practices have implemented measures to ensure that the waiting room isn’t full of patients, and EMR/EHR systems have enabled patients to fill out paperwork digitally and retain that information in their digital files. Because the technology is there and has been for awhile, patients have come to expect that.
As consumers, our behaviors have evolved. We can now use apps to summon just about whatever we want and have it delivered to our doorsteps without ever speaking to another person. It’s only natural that patients would expect to have at least some of that convenience in healthcare, as well.
2. Practices that embrace health tech can become leaders.
Practices can be resistant to change, or they can embrace health tech to find innovative new ways to help more patients, whether we are in the midst of a pandemic or not. As Mike Biselli said in episode 31 of the podcast, “Amidst great chaos, there’s always great opportunity. And we’re already starting to see amazing forms of leadership popping up all over our nation.”
It is true that not all health tech innovations will be successful. In the episode, Mike cited the dropoff of usage in wearable devices and the mess created by patient portals as examples. On the other hand, health systems that have invested in data collection and predictive analytics have seen great success in the ability to help patients get healthy and keep them healthy in the long run.
While it can be difficult to predict what innovations might be successful for healthcare, the practices that don’t try anything will be left behind by those that are willing to try new things to provide better experiences for their patients.
3. Telehealth, in particular, has seen a lot of growth and is helping practices reach more patients.
While some practices have adopted telehealth over the last few years, COVID really pushed the need for practices to adopt telehealth. Pre-COVID, state and federal legislation and reimbursements made it more difficult for practices to adopt telemedicine. The pandemic led the government to ease up on restrictions, which made it easier for practices to start offering this option to patients.
While there are certain limitations to how your practice can help patients via telehealth, in many cases the initial consult and followup visits after treatment can be done via telemedicine. This is an attractive option for both the patient and the practice. The patient can meet with their doctor in the comfort and safety of their own home, saving time and reducing their risk of contracting COVID. The practice benefits by being able to help more patients during the day, with less of the operational burden that is now required with COVID, like thorough cleaning after each patient, reducing the number of people in the office, etc.
In episode 34 of our podcast, Dr. Daren Anderson explained how his company, eConsults, was using telemedicine to help patients get the specialized care they needed. Patients can have telemedicine visits with primary care doctors, who then consult with specialists to help connect patients with the treatments they need. This is a departure from how things have traditionally been approached in healthcare, but it ultimately helps the patient.
During a major shift like pandemic, technology can help us all stay connected and pivot quickly. As Dr. Anderson pointed out, “unlike any previous pandemic, we are now connected in ways that we never were before. And I think, you know, we’re connected through technology, we’re connected through Facebook, we’re connected through tools that allow information to spread much more rapidly than ever before.”
Though the pandemic has affected healthcare in ways that we never could have anticipated, it has taught us some valuable lessons. Practices that actively seek out ways to stay connected with patients and colleagues will stay ahead of the curve, and the right technology can help you achieve that.