3 Healthcare Predictions for a Post-Pandemic World

by | Apr 28, 2020 | Healthcare Industry Insights

What will the healthcare landscape look like after the pandemic — and what are you doing now to prepare?

There’s no short­age of con­tent address­ing the cur­rent real­i­ties of the pan­dem­ic. In fact, more than 41,000 arti­cles were writ­ten about COVID-19 in just the first 3 months of 2020. There is uncer­tain­ty around the tim­ing of a vac­cine, the toll on the econ­o­my and oth­er crit­i­cal issues. How­ev­er, the par­a­digm shifts in how health­care is deliv­ered, financed and pro­mot­ed that were at the tip­ping point pri­or to the pan­dem­ic are now becom­ing a base­line for the future.

Here are three health­care pre­dic­tions that could last long after we’ve found a cure for COVID-19.

The Prediction: Driving profitable revenue will be the C‑suite’s top priority.

Even before COVID, the trends toward con­sumerism and dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion were dri­ving a shift from inpa­tient to high­er-mar­gin out­pa­tient pro­ce­dures. This “no more heads in beds” approach has been gain­ing momen­tum for years and is now accel­er­at­ing dai­ly with lack of phys­i­cal access to physi­cians dur­ing the pan­dem­ic. The result will be what Jef­fer­son Health CEO Dr. Stephen Klasko calls a “health­care with no address” envi­ron­ment.

At the same time, rev­enue growth has become the top pri­or­i­ty for hos­pi­tal and health sys­tem CEOs—and the pan­dem­ic is only mag­ni­fy­ing that man­date. The cost of COVID-relat­ed hos­pi­tal­iza­tions and the sub­se­quent impact on elec­tive pro­ce­dures and oth­er high-val­ue ser­vices is fuel­ing an urgency to dri­ve rev­enue, along with cre­at­ing a capac­i­ty vac­u­um that health­care orga­ni­za­tions will be laser-focused on fill­ing when the pan­dem­ic dissipates.

Accord­ing to William Winken­werder, MD, the for­mer CEO of a large health sys­tem who also served as Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense for Health Affairs, hos­pi­tals need to take more non-COVID patients—as they can’t expect politi­cians to solve the prob­lem. “The hard real­i­ty is that no amount of finan­cial aid from Wash­ing­ton or increased lines of cred­it can reverse the grow­ing loss­es across our entire health­care sys­tem. The only answer is for the health­care sys­tem to cure itself.” 

The Impli­ca­tion: As pay­ment for telemed­i­cine and oth­er non-tra­di­tion­al chan­nels expands, the health­care orga­ni­za­tions who embrace these con­sumer-cen­tric mod­els and build a pipeline for pri­or­i­ty ser­vice lines will emerge as win­ners in the post-COVID world.

The Prediction: Healthcare will be delivered from virtually everywhere.

Thanks to Ama­zon, Uber and oth­er glob­al brands, the mod­ern con­sumer expects an easy, ele­gant and con­ve­nient expe­ri­ence at every stage of the deci­sion cycle. This is true from research­ing con­di­tions and eval­u­at­ing treat­ment options to patient encoun­ters and loyalty.

In addi­tion, these inter­ac­tions are increas­ing­ly hap­pen­ing from the com­fort of home as con­sumers con­duct near­ly all activ­i­ties of mod­ern life—from shop­ping and work­ing to edu­cat­ing children—without hav­ing to go anywhere.

These stan­dards set by retail providers and e‑commerce plat­forms are hav­ing impli­ca­tions across all indus­tries and health­care is no excep­tion. This is clear­ly evi­denced by the growth in health­care-relat­ed search queries, demand for online health con­tent and adop­tion of tools like online appoint­ment sched­ul­ing and telehealth.

The Impli­ca­tion: Fueled by social dis­tanc­ing efforts due to COVID-19, con­sumers seek­ing a retail-esque health­care expe­ri­ence beyond the tra­di­tion­al hos­pi­tal or physi­cian prac­tice set­ting will progress until today’s norms could seem anti­quat­ed in the near future. In fact, Dr Klasko sug­gests that, “We should nev­er again use the word ‘tele­health’ just as we don’t use the word ‘tele­bank­ing.’ It’s just that 90% of bank­ing went from the bank to the home. Much the same will hap­pen in healthcare.”

The Prediction: The role of caregiver will be redefined.

Physi­cian burnout and nurs­ing short­ages were crit­i­cal issues before the pan­dem­ic, and the stress asso­ci­at­ed with the surge in COVID-19 cases—overcrowded hos­pi­tals, lim­it­ed resources and their own threat of infection—has only exac­er­bat­ed those concerns.

The strate­gies deployed by health­care providers and gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tors to address the cri­sis have been tremen­dous, including.

  • Redi­rect­ing physi­cians and nurs­es to care for COVID-19 patients
  • Allow­ing nurse prac­ti­tion­ers, physi­cian assis­tants and oth­ers to per­form expand­ed func­tions with­out physi­cian supervision
  • Offer­ing fourth-year med­ical stu­dents the oppor­tu­ni­ty to grad­u­ate ear­ly and jump into action
  • Enabling non-clin­i­cal staff to triage patients

Many of these efforts to expand capac­i­ty are like­ly to remain in place as health­care lead­ers audit their plans for an unex­pect­ed spike in patient vol­umes. When com­bined with the poten­tial use cas­es for arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence (Dr. Klasko even sug­gests that “Any doc­tor that can be replaced by a com­put­er should be”), it’s clear health­care providers of the future could look a lot dif­fer­ent than the ones car­ing for patients today.

The Impli­ca­tion: Busi­ness devel­op­ment lead­ers that have focused out­reach and refer­ral devel­op­ment strate­gies on physi­cians will need to recon­sid­er their audi­ence and mes­sag­ing strate­gies. In addi­tion, mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions lead­ers will be count­ed on to sup­port recruit­ing, onboard­ing and train­ing for new clin­i­cal peers that ensure a sat­is­fac­to­ry patient expe­ri­ence and max­i­mum reimbursement.

Healthcare Predictions: Looking Ahead

Along with these themes, anoth­er ves­tige of COVID-19 will be a greater appre­ci­a­tion for the health­care providers who are putting them­selves in harm’s way. We believe health­care mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion pro­fes­sion­als have also been instru­men­tal in edu­cat­ing their com­mu­ni­ties, cel­e­brat­ing their col­leagues and flat­ten­ing the infec­tion curve.

And since the only con­stant in health care is change, those who can inform strat­e­gy, com­mu­ni­cate effec­tive­ly and engage customers—including con­sumers, patients, providers and oth­er constituents—will con­tin­ue to be piv­otal as we pre­pare for the next cri­sis. That’s one of the most impor­tant health­care pre­dic­tions out of the group.

As this recent HBR arti­cle sug­gests, “it is crit­i­cal to start con­sid­er­ing how the lessons of this cri­sis can be cap­tured not only to make the next cri­sis eas­i­er to man­age but also to ensure that the ongo­ing oper­a­tion of our health­care sys­tem is improved in a fun­da­men­tal manner.”

Let’s Plan Your Post-COVID-19 Strategy

Learn how we’re guid­ing health­care clients to engage their com­mu­ni­ties and build a pipeline for high val­ue ser­vice lines.

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