When the COVID-19 pandemic hit earlier this yr, well being system executives needed to shift their priorities to fast-track improvements akin to digital care companies and synthetic intelligence instruments.
A few quarter of healthcare executives (26%) mentioned the shift to telehealth and digital care was a prime innovation precedence at their organizations previous to the pandemic, in line with a survey of 117 executives performed at first of the yr by the Heart for Related Medication (CCM).
That has now jumped to 49% of executives who say digital care is a prime innovation precedence, in line with CCM’s follow-up survey from this summer season.
Previous to the pandemic, executives mentioned their organizations had run into challenges with tight laws and low reimbursement that made progress within the shift to telehealth troublesome. When the pandemic occurred, leaders skilled fast progress as laws have been loosened and reimbursement was elevated.
CCM, in partnership with KLAS Analysis, surveyed executives from Could to August on how innovation priorities shifted in response to COVID-19 and the position of key applied sciences in managing the pandemic.
9 out of 10 organizations efficiently met elevated telehealth demand in the course of the pandemic, in line with the survey findings. However the fast implementation of telehealth options in response to the pandemic highlighted areas needing enchancment—specifically, integration gaps, particularly with platforms not constructed for healthcare workflows, executives mentioned.
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Whereas some knowledge present that telehealth visits are starting to drop as sufferers return to the physician’s workplace for in-person appointments, most well being system executives mentioned they plan to proceed or broaden telehealth companies in 2021.
One well being system CEO mentioned, “We went from nearly no telehealth to in all probability 90% of our visits by means of telehealth. The rise is exponential and unbelievable. We have now discovered find out how to do it, and our sufferers actually prefer it. If COVID-19 disappeared tomorrow, we might nonetheless proceed telehealth as a lot as we might as a result of it’s such a affected person satisfier.”
Executives who carried out fast, short-term options are trying ahead to enhancing integration, infrastructure and safety for an up to date telehealth technique, in line with the survey findings. In addition they intend to reassess their expertise and make long-term selections about go-forward telehealth platforms.
“We’re accelerating our work on digital options and telemedicine to enhance the affected person and supplier expertise. In some methods, the pandemic helped push by means of innovation tasks that have been into account and may need taken a while to implement,” mentioned Brent Burns, govt vice chairman of UPMC Enterprises, within the report.
Uncertainty round reimbursement
However post-pandemic regulation and cost stay obstacles. It isn’t clear whether or not authorities and personal payers will keep reimbursement after the pandemic subsides or whether or not reimbursements will return to prior ranges.
The director of inhabitants well being at one well being system mentioned the way forward for telehealth is “undetermined” as reimbursement is a serious variable.
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“Up to now, payers and the federal government have normally not paid for telehealth or solely paid at a reduced fee for sure companies. If that’s mounted, I believe there could be a fairly wholesome ongoing demand for telehealth. If the boundaries resume, it turns into tougher. When suppliers receives a commission much less for doing telehealth companies or typically don’t receives a commission in any respect, their incentive to offer these companies is decreased,” the chief mentioned.
Solely 20% of executives mentioned their organizations will proceed offering digital care if reimbursement returns to pre-COVID-19 ranges.
Sixteen % mentioned they’d analyze the monetary viability of continued telehealth use, 15% mentioned they’d foyer for improved regulation, 13% mentioned they’d return to face-to-face care and 30% mentioned they have been not sure.
What to anticipate in 2021
A key discovering from the survey is that digital well being options and expertise have been important to the COVID-19 response, in line with executives, and innovation that appeared to maneuver at a glacial tempo pre-pandemic has accelerated.
“Expertise has been so important to the COVID-19 response at UPMC and different well being methods that the road now could be blurred between conventional well being care and digital well being. Expertise and digital purposes that when weren’t used to their full potential at the moment are a everlasting a part of offering the absolute best take care of our sufferers,” mentioned Rob Bart, M.D., chief medical info officer at UPMC, in a press release.
Well being system executives additionally rapidly turned their consideration to deploying AI and enhancing income cycle administration in the course of the pandemic.
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Half of the respondents reported utilizing AI in response to the pandemic for purposes akin to medical choice help, administration of beds, staffing and gadgets, and analytics—expertise that’s boosting curiosity within the expertise and pointing to higher utilization within the yr forward, the survey discovered.
“COVID-19 has definitely opened our eyes to potentialities about what AI can truly do for us relating to monitoring, trending, alerting, and people sorts of issues,” a director of medical informatics mentioned.
Nevertheless, funds constraints on account of present monetary challenges and uncertainty in regards to the future will doubtless imply prime innovation priorities shall be placed on maintain or slowed down.
“Following on the heels of COVID with restricted funds, we’re in all probability backing off any kind of main venture or innovation for the approaching fiscal yr. We have been planning on doing a little larger tasks, however I believe we shall be backing off of just about the whole lot now,” the vice chairman of well being knowledge help companies at one well being system mentioned.