The COVID-19 pandemic put the healthcare sector in a really tough spot than ever before. It stretched the limits of their infrastructure - both physical and digital - to accommodate the massive influx of patients and ensuring that patients with other medical conditions also receive care as efficiently as before but through different channels.
Virtual care delivery propelled to new heights as lockdowns and severe restrictions on citizen movement imposed by governments prevented people from visiting clinics as often as they used to do before. The US alone saw a 50% rise in the number of telehealth visits when compared to 2019, in the first quarter of 2020 after the pandemic started gripping the nation in March.
While vaccination programs are fast progressing across countries, it might take a while for the disease to be eliminated completely. But the bottom line or lesson that the COVID-19 pandemic taught is that healthcare providers need to be prepared for the unexpected. Events like the COVID-19 pandemic can occur in the blink of an eye in the future and the virus involved might be even deadlier thereby halting normal life even more strictly. So, what does care delivery in the post-pandemic world need to look at to remain committed to serving the needy without disruption?
2020 was an eye-opener for hospitals and caregivers about the need to have a digitally-enabled care facility for patients wherein; a combination of telehealth and remote treatments using advanced technologies helped millions of people stay healthy at homes while sitting out the pandemic.
On that note, let us examine the digital trends that healthcare providers and hospitals need to observe and adapt if they are to sustain in the post-pandemic world:
Seamless and secure access to patient information must be a core necessity of enabling better care delivery by hospitals and clinics. Doctors need information about a patient’s medical records, their prescribed medication as well as details of treatments provided in the past, etc. which will help in diagnosing new conditions more accurately. Clinical care providers and hospitals need access to digital platforms where patient information can be systematically archived for future use. The digital platform should also allow collaboration with a wider healthcare network comprising of other caregivers to facilitate secure and seamless exchange of patient information when a patient prefers to consult a new facility.
The rise of health and fitness tracking apps has resulted in a treasure trove of health data being up for grabs by healthcare providers. From understanding a patient’s food intake to their exercise and activity patterns, caregivers can leverage data from wearables and smartphone apps to aid doctors in diagnosis as well as in prescribing care instructions. Nearly 71% of patients today are strongly opining that their physicians need access to the medical or health data captured by their smartphones. This shows that patients too are willing to have their health data utilized by care providers to get access to a better and healthier lifestyle.
There is no way that healthcare providers can ignore the massive surge in demand for remote virtual care by patients. The pandemic accelerated the adoption of telehealth and telemedicine globally and the effects are likely to stay in the future post the pandemic era. Surveys have pointed out that nearly 77% of respondents opine that they will use at least some form of telehealth facility even after the pandemic. From scheduling appointments with doctors to managing consultations through audio or video conferencing and getting virtual prescriptions, care delivery systems need to embrace digital technologies across all facets. Doctors and patients need a transparent interaction medium for remote diagnostics of medical conditions and the data collected by these digital systems needs to be securely stored without being left vulnerable to thefts or unauthorized access.
As countries across the globe mandated lockdowns, the general public quickly realized that avoiding physical contact can reduce the chance of them getting infected and infecting others via them. Exchange of cards and currency notes pose severe risks of spreading dangerous microbes like the Coronavirus. Hospitals, pharmacies, and clinics need to offer contactless payment options for patients so that they can avoid queues as well as contact at the billing or pharmacy counter during payments. They can rely on a dedicated hospital app to get all bills and settle them from the app itself, get notified when their medicines are ready for pickup from the pharmacy, and pay the bill on the app itself.
Digital transformation will be a pivotal agent in enabling better care delivery in a post-pandemic world. From empowering doctors and patients to have better digital interactions to facilitating seamless management of health data, there are numerous capabilities that digital channels can open up for the healthcare sector in the coming years.