By Donna Houlne, RN, BSN, MHA, MHRM
If the last 18 months has taught us anything, it’s that our industry, our people, are more committed and more resilient than we ever knew. And while we are still working through some of our biggest business and clinical challenges, we must remember that there are many opportunities ahead.
One crucial area of healthcare that I believe will experience renewed focus and scrutiny is cost of care. Patients will lead the drive toward consumerism as they continuing to pay more out-of-pocket for their healthcare costs. At the same time, the 21st Century Cures Act mandating patient access to their complete medical record will usher in even more demands for complete transparency, including costs, across the care continuum.
This means that as leaders in our industry, we need to think differently, plan differently and act differently. And we can do that by turning to technology, and embracing IoT and a more robust and innovative IT infrastructure to provide the critical support for this significant shift.
Better, cost-effective care starts with interoperability. One study found that the lack of healthcare data interoperability costs the U.S. health system over $30 billion a year. We can fix that with true data liquidity. That means moving information in and out of apps. It means accessibility by smartphone or, for other, older populations, home telemonitoring. True connections and information sharing across everything from physician notes, to lab results, to dietary needs systemizes the mission of healthcare. By managing patients across multiple providers, it saves costs, for everyone, by preventing illness, hospital readmissions and complications.
Another opportunity that presented itself during the pandemic was spurred by the adoption of telehealth, which went into hyperdrive and created a care transformation that would normally take years. Providers were reporting huge spikes in telehealth use. I talked to another virtual healthcare company that reported seeing as many as 15,000 virtual care visits per day.
Despite some common concerns around lack of confidence in the telehealth platform — HIPAA concerns, rural access, the ability to support big data — we expect telehealth to continue to seep into the mainstream of healthcare. It has proven itself beyond an acute care model, offering the option for multidisciplinary teams of caregivers to remotely monitor compliance and treatment plans, at a much lower cost than in-person visits. I think we will see more systems recognizing it as a standard care option for primary care.
The market is responding to this evolution and changing expectations. We’ve heard about Amazon and Google and Microsoft getting into healthcare, but even Best Buy and Walmart are entering the market. As we emerge from these tumultuous times, I think we can expect more competition, consumer demands, and moves toward mitigating the cost of care, on all fronts. Are you ready?