Companies Catapulting Healthcare Innovation

4 Ways COVID Has Catapulted Healthcare Innovation

Here are four ways that COVID-19 has catapulted healthcare innovation.

Karen Murphy, PhD, EVP & CIO, GeisingerFIRST, when you look up the word “innovation” in the Healthcare Dictionary, you’ll undoubtedly find a picture of Karen Murphy. Prior to joining Geisinger, as their EVP and Chief Innovation Officer, Karen had been Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health, after she’d led the State Innovation Models Initiative that CMS invested $990 million in, to accelerate healthcare innovation nationally. Beginning her career as an RN, she later capped her formal education with a PhD in Business. Yet she credits the COVID pandemic with positioning her to lead change in the post-COVID environment.

As Karen shared in Will COVID-19 be the Catalyst for Creating A More Sustainable Healthcare System?, a feature article last month in Modern Healthcare, “A year ago in terms of digital strategies it would have taken us a while to educate doctors. I think now when we have a problem, instead of asking how many people do we need to solve it, we’ll be thinking digital first. Shame on us if we slide back to where we were before.”

SECOND, and closer to home, Elizabeth Lee, CalOptima’s PACE Director, reflects that “It’s pretty amazing to look back and see how far we’ve come knowing that it’s probably never going to look the same again for us.” Blocked from providing clinical care as CalOptima always had, during the pandemic Elizabeth’s clinical care team members consulted with the seniors they serve through telehealth, while vans delivered meals, medical equipment and supplies to their members. And mobile phlebotomists conducted blood drives, while mobile radiologists performed ultrasounds and X-rays in the patient homes.

THIRD, prior to COVID, telehealth companies like MDLIVE, Teladoc, Amwell, and Doctor on Demand originally made their reputations as “online urgent cares.” During COVID, a handful of insurers and employers began partnering with them – by using their tele-technology platforms – to offer their members and employees virtual primary care services with their regular primary-care physician, who they could now see via telehealth. While not surprising, as reported in Modern Healthcare, nearly half of all patients who sought healthcare during the pandemic used either audio- or video-based telehealth services, according to a RAND Corp. survey. What is surprising, is that the vast majority of patients who used telehealth, said their visit was with a provider they had seen before.

And FOURTH, a year ago CVS was known as a drug store – where you could also get cosmetics and candy, but not cigarettes. And Aetna was still the nation’s third largest health insurer – although it was acquired by CVS for $69 billion in November of 2018. But then along came COVID, and suddenly CVS used its customer-facing clout to forge a major role with Covid-19 testing – during which its 9,900 pharmacies connected to eight million new customers, who gladly shared their email addresses and phone numbers with CVS to get discount coupons for cosmetics and candy.

Thanks to the Federal Pharmacy Program, CVS anticipates it will be able to administer 20-25 million COVID vaccine doses a month. So all those customers who were COVID-tested will be contacted again to come in for their COVID vaccines – and browse and shop in the store’s aisles as they wait-out their 15 minutes post-vaccination. The result is that across the country, CVS Health will be re-entering the ACA’s insurance marketplaces next year, using their CVS brand name, which The Wall Street Journal marks as the latest sign that the ACA marketplaces (like Covered California) – once money losers for insurers, have gained a firmer footing.

But no doubt, marketers will attribute the move to The Power of Brand.

ABL Healthcare and Technology InsightsBy Mimi Grant, President, Adaptive Business Leaders (ABL) Organization – Round Tables and Events for CEOs of Healthcare and Technology Companies