04 May 5 Ways the COVID-19 Pandemic Changed the Healthcare Industry for the Better
With thanks to guest blogger Roseanne Judson, we learn of innovative approaches applied by healthcare organizations in the crucible of COVID that savvy teams will take with them into the emerging new normal. Image credit: Unsplash
Due to the pandemic, healthcare spending saw historic fluctuations in 2020. In fact, a recent Peterson-KFF Report reveals how healthcare spending dropped by 8.6% in the second quarter of 2020, and by 2.4% through the third quarter before finding steadier footing.
As the country slowly recovers from the ongoing effects of COVID-19, the healthcare industry learned to cope with the extreme financial fluctuations caused by the pandemic through these five key changes:
COVID-19 hastened the digital transformation of the industry, while also making service more efficient and patient-centric. Once patients started to return for in-person care, clinics everywhere began streamlining their services by digitizing forms and patients’ check-in procedures, drastically reducing time spent in the waiting room. Copay transactions and communications between service providers are now handled online. This smoother process ushers patients in and out of clinics faster, and frees staff from cumbersome administrative work.
Expansion of virtual care and learning
By March 2020, telehealth visits increased 154%, which helped alleviate the shortage of physicians and overcrowding of emergency rooms in hospitals. Telehealth also went hand-in-hand with remote learning, as the pandemic created a parallel increase in the popularity of virtual learning, as remote healthcare degrees became much more accessible. Nurses today can take RN to BSN programs online to specialize in in-demand fields like nursing informatics, gerontology, and critical care. Having gone through remote learning, these healthcare professionals are much more qualified to provide care through online media. And as these courses are taught completely online, practicing nurses can advance their careers without taking time off from work. This is especially crucial now that skilled professionals who can provide virtual care are needed, as social distancing measures are still in place and telehealth continues to be widely used.
Adaptive supply chain
At the outset of the pandemic, there was a severe shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). This Covid-induced shortage was due to the country’s reliance on a limited number of monopolistic PPE manufacturers, primarily in China. As seen during the pandemic, the supply chain disruption was catastrophic. Hospital supplies dwindled and many were forced to reuse PPE during the first peak of the coronavirus crisis. To close the gap, multi-source supply chains were developed throughout the country.
Coordination between organizations
The pandemic showed the disparity between hospitals; frequently, supplies were not delivered to hospitals that needed them the most. But in a show of camaraderie, many hospitals worked with each other regionally in the midst the pandemic. A centralized forecasting system and stockpiles of medical equipment were notably put in place in New York, to prevent hoarding, giving all hospitals greater access to information and supplies.
More ways of working together
In many patient-facing environments, teams met in daily 8 am, socially-distanced huddles. The pandemic pushed many others to shelter-in-place at home, where tough business decisions were made during virtual C-suite meetings. As “knowledge workers” continued working from home throughout 2020 and into 2021, more meetings moved online with the liberal use of Zoom and Teams, as well as Slack, and other instant messaging platforms. Staff meetings became far more efficient, with the greater flexibility and minimized time required to get to them. For healthcare businesses that need to take decisive action quickly, the fixed-time huddles were especially beneficial.
While COVID-19 posed serious challenges to the healthcare industry, it also demonstrated how innovative and resilient the sector could be, and how many of the approaches developed during COVID, will be actively applied in the “new normal,” whenever it arrives.
Article written by: Roseanne Judson
Exclusively for ABL Organization