The coronavirus has truly upended U.S. healthcare. However, some healthcare providers, like Geisinger Health System, quickly activated emergency response plans and canceled all non-urgent procedures and clinic visits. Such healthcare systems also shifted the non-clinical workforce to work from home and saw that virtual communication with patients exploded. Because of the pandemic and the emergency created with an influx of an unexpected number of patients, healthcare systems dealt with shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and important medical equipment for the first time.
All healthcare systems have and continue to experience negative financial impacts from the coronavirus that will total to hundreds of millions of dollars. Just as healthcare systems adapt to their new reality, WHO is predicting Covid-19’s second wave in the near future.
Many aspects of how U.S. healthcare has previously worked including fee-for-service business model – were exactly the elements that left the healthcare systems vulnerable to the crippling impact of the pandemic. It is difficult for healthcare systems to get back to business as usual so they need to instead focus on creating a new normal post-pandemic. Creating the new reality means speeding up the positive transformation that is underway towards value based care, and determining which of the activities healthcare systems have stopped and should not resume.
Now is an excellent time to mobilize your team in order to boldly transform the healthcare systems for the better from learned experience in ways that previously were not possible. Healthcare systems need to take this opportunity to fix what has not worked and direct full attention to new and better goals that are centered on delivering better outcomes and creating true value for patients.
How Can Healthcare Systems Create Better Value for Patients?
- Resuming non-urgent work
- Beginning of the New Normal
- Post-crisis Activity and preparing for the second wave of Covid-19
- Operational and economic recovery in a transformed system
Members of the group will have to carefully consider the impact at each stage on patients and front line employees by focusing on their needs and what changes for them, and what will make them feel safe. Each activity in these different functions can be categorized as work to ‘start’, ‘continue’ or ‘stop’. The groups will have to use a scenario planning approach for the work as it cannot be assumed that the future will look like the world we knew before Covid-19. When planning exercises, the groups develop plausible scenarios (e.g., higher reimbursement for telehealth visits) and determine the impact on patient care and the business. This way, the groups can establish common assumptions about the ‘new normal’ and how the healthcare system/organization should respond.
Stage 1: Resuming Non-Urgent Work
Healthcare systems with resources should support the public health departments’ contact tracing as a public-private partnership. Did you know that the U.S. is falling short of the estimated 300,000 contact tracers needed? Many hospitals have the expertise to manage testing, communicating the results, and treating those who test positive. If these capabilities can include contact tracing, it would be a natural extension for many systems. It will definitely contribute to the public good and will also help reduce their own Covid-19 caseloads. Healthcare organizations that begin to perform this will also find the experience valuable if and when the second wave of Covid-19 hits. Contact testing will benefit providers, patients, and communities.
Telehealth Solutions Like Hucu Can Reduce Operational Cost for Healthcare Organizations
Stage 2: Beginning of the New Normal
Telehealth solutions like Hucu.ai are a great example of how communication and operations can be sorted out smoothly around patients, doctors, and staff of a healthcare organization. Hucu is a Hipaa Compliant Text messaging Application and a healthcare communication app that offers a platform to patients, doctors, staff, and families to stay connected remotely in a very systematic way. Doctors can check in on their patients virtually and also communicate about the patient with the care team in separate channels. The care team provides real-time updates to families of nursing home residents through Hucu.ai. The healthcare organization can use Hucu.ai to create operational plans following an emergency in minutes via groups. Hucu.ai eliminates the traditional task of contacting individuals and relaying important information every time. Hucu.ai is a complete communication solution that can save staff time up to 50%, increase work efficiency, and reduce costs for the hospitals.
Stage 3: Post-Crisis Activity And Preparing For The Second Wave Of Covid-19
Some of the critical changes that healthcare systems have made in response to the coronavirus are likely to stay with them. For example, many allowed a great chunk of their workforce to work from home. The benefits of this shift included increased employee safety and access to an expanded talent pool since work from home employees can live and work from literally anywhere around the world. As long as the staff can effectively work from a remote location after the pandemic, healthcare organizations can anticipate potential cost savings from the elimination of leases, sale of real estate, and conversion of current administrative space to clinical space. Perhaps the healthcare organizations can work out a WFH model in which part of the workforce can WFH completely which a part can work in hybrid WFH and office-based roles.
A large part of the clinical activity will likely continue as telehealth, so healthcare organizations will have to revise a facility plan for the years ahead. Healthcare systems that had success with WFH during the pandemic can determine what proportion of their workforce could WFH permanently. This will result in decreased operational costs too.
Stage 4: Operational And Economic Recovery In A Transformed System
The fee-for-service business model of the U.S, designed with misaligned incentives that stunted care innovation before Covid-19, was destined to fail under pressure and it did. Covid-19 compounded the already present shortcomings of such an approach – particularly its reliance on maximizing elective procedures and volume in general. The crisis necessitated the quick acceleration of virtual care and care at home as hospital systems and patients deliberately reduced inpatient hospital admissions and avoided ER utilization. Virtual care and home care can reduce costs and improve patient engagement. However, these same efforts also lead to significant reductions in revenue under the present fee-for-service reimbursement scheme in healthcare.
Consequential payment reform should create funding systems that make prevention and population health – rather than maximizing reimbursement – the true focus of patient care. This will need a significant financial incentive to create alignment between value (better health outcomes at lower cost) and reimbursement. Such incentives have to be sufficient to encourage investments needed to transform the care delivery model in the healthcare industry.
Such a model will lead to improved quality of healthcare and reduce costs as more patients will get the right care in the appropriate settings. Without such a shift, U.S. healthcare systems will continue to suffer from the effects of prioritizing volume over value and will be financially exposed and vulnerable in the upcoming second wave of the pandemic just like they were in the first one.
What We Conclude
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