Often it takes an extraordinary event to drive monumental change. Leaders from across the healthcare ecosystem say that the coronavirus pandemic has been just such an event, setting the stage for new care delivery models and rapid digital transformation. But what happens next? If and when cases start to drop, how does healthcare pivot?

They shared their observations in a recent eHealth Initiative (eHI) panel webinar, “After the Curve Flattens: What’s Next for Healthcare and COVID-19.”

Panel participants agree that the pandemic has advanced some important changes that, if fully realized, could help fix much of what ails the U.S. healthcare system. They’re especially encouraged by the swift adoption of telehealth, the growing interest in sharing analytics and insights to improve care, the focus on more complete patient care versus episodic care, and the emphasis on reducing inequalities in care delivery.

Here are some of the discussion highlights.

Telehealth

After years of struggling to take hold, virtual healthcare has now been embraced by providers and patients alike even among less tech-savvy groups like senior citizens. In April 2020, telehealth claims skyrocketed to nearly 7500% of April 2019 volume.[1] Frost & Sullivan projects U.S. telehealth usage to grow seven-fold by 2025.[2] Virtual care delivery offers much more than social distancing and convenience; it allows organizations to “meet the patient where they are” and overcome barriers to care such as lack of transportation and rural isolation.

Addressing Outside Influences of Care Delivery

Current realities have caused us to redefine what “care” means. It goes well beyond what happens in the clinical setting. Access to nutritious food, healthy social connections and  financial stability among other things all influence the trajectory of a person’s health and well-being. The evidence has long been there, but the pervasiveness of COVID-19 among vulnerable populations spotlights the need to address the socioeconomic factors that contribute to a person’s well being. Healthcare providers and payers are looking at the “whole person” to drive optimized population health outcomes. This is manifesting in a couple of different ways:

  • Providers and payers are conducting personal outreach to people more likely to face socioeconomic challenges ⏤ particularly those enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid programs ⏤ to  better understand their needs and challenges to receiving care. Officials expect a 38% increase in Medicaid enrollment through the remainder of 2020[3], and these outreach efforts help ensure proper allocation of resources to meet the demand. 
  • Life sciences organizations are looking at how to become more inclusive in research trials so that treatment efficacy and impacts reflect multiple demographics.

Ethical Use of Social Determinants of Health Data (SDOH)

SDOH is emerging as a critical tool in promoting healthcare equity and patient-centered, value-based care. But due to the in-depth insights that pertain to personal information, panel participants emphasized the importance of establishing protocols to ensure ethical, relevant use of the data. To that end, a collaborative of eHI and other industry stakeholders including LexisNexis®️ Risk Solutions are working to outline guiding principles for ethical SDOH use, which include:

  • Care Coordination
  • Recognizing Risk Through SDOH Analytics
  • Mapping Community Resources and Identifying Gaps
  • Service and Impact Assessment
  • Customizing Health Services and Interventions

Facilitating Data Sharing

Panel members were encouraged by the increase of data analytics and insights sharing that has been happening since the pandemic began, and they acknowledge the challenges inherent in managing that data sharing. They emphasized the importance of standardizing the data and maintaining a strict governance process not only for reliable internal use but also to facilitate data sharing between organizations.

Ideally, disparate health data should be combined into a single ecosystem, with relevant data points resolved down to each individual – something that the move to a national patient identifier can help provider organizations address. True interoperability will be key to getting ahead of issues and optimizing care delivery in a post-pandemic world.

Let’s keep the momentum going

The swift pace of digital transformation has been a bright spot in the COVID-19 crisis and indicative of what we can do when we take an “all hands-on deck” stance. As Mike Archuleta, CIO of Bridgecare Health Network, Mt. St. Raphael, put it: “We’ve done stuff in 3 months that we haven’t done in 20 years.”

We have made great progress with innovation and the ability of healthcare organizations to pivot during a crisis. Continued investments in digital innovation, industry collaboration and patient-centered care will help move the needle.  

Visit our website to learn more about data and analytics innovation.


Webinar Panelists

Mike Archuleta
CIO
Bridgecare Health Network, Mt. St. Raphael

Anupam Goel, MD, MBA
Chief Health Information Officer
UnitedHealthcare Clinical Services

Ira Klein, MD, MBA, FACP
Senior Director of Quality, Strategy Customer Group
Johnson & Johnson

Andrew Renda, MD, MPH
Associate Vice President – Population Health
Humana

Josh Schoeller​
CEO, Healthcare
LexisNexis®️ Risk Solutions

Rich Morino​
Senior Director, Strategic Solutions
LexisNexis®️ Risk Solutions

Moderator:
Jennifer Covich Bordenick
CEO eHealth Initiative & Foundation


[1] LexisNexis®️ Risk Solutions Covid-19 Data Resource Center

[2] Frost & Sullivan, Telehealth—A Technology-Based Weapon in the War Against the Coronavirus, 2020

[3] HIT Infrastructure, “Medicaid Needs Health IT Infrastructure Update for Enrollment Bump,” July 3, 2020