By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
We know the pandemic has spawned new healthcare trends. And often, our business is in a unique position to observe and analyze these trends in real-time. With clients across the full spectrum of healthcare, we monitor how providers and other healthcare organizations are affected by COVID-19 and what they’re doing to evolve and survive.
To better understand the most recent changes in healthcare, I interviewed the founder and CEO of Darwin Research Group, John Marchica. John is an expert in integrated health systems, health care delivery and value-based care models.
In the spirit of survival of the fittest, his firm took the opportunity to flex its research muscle by providing evidence-based healthcare industry trends for their clients via tracking COVID’s effects on care delivery during the pandemic and beyond. The results are now available in an updated volume 3 report called the IDN Engagement Tracking Study.
In the recent study, Darwin Research Group unveils a variety of key findings, six of which I summarize in this post. For even more insights, take the time to listen to the full podcast.
Listen to the podcast: This 6 Key Healthcare Trends Emerging from the Pandemic podcast can be accessed through the graphic below, or via any of the following podcast apps… | iTunes | Spotify | iHeartRadio | Google Podcasts | Pod Bean | Tunein | Radio Public | Stitcher |
6 Healthcare Industry Trends
Now that health systems are opening with the majority saying they are back to pre-Covid levels of activity, are we back to normal? Or rather, in the process of managing through a very tough year financially and emotionally, are we seeing a shift in priorities and possibly growth opportunities? Well, a little bit of both.
Let’s look at some of the key healthcare trends and areas of growth according to the study.
1. A Renewed Focus on Growth Opportunities
While reimbursement rates are declining across payers and posing a challenge, health systems are looking for growth areas by acquiring practices and increasing offerings, such as home health services, virtual visits, and growing service lines.
Beyond the “usual suspect” service lines such as cardiovascular and orthopedics, one of the biggest trends in healthcare is a renewed focus on primary care. This growth is due to several factors, likely including a desire for revenue growth, expanded referral networks, and addressing population health disparities.
Integrating urgent care and ambulatory surgery centers is another strategic growth initiative we see to expand into critical communities and ultimately build a fully integrated care system.
2. Virtual Healthcare
As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. Although not one of the newest healthcare trends, telehealth adoption was greatly accelerated by the necessity for patients to access healthcare remotely. Essentially, COVID provided the impetus to solve long-standing barriers, including HIPAA concerns, reimbursement, and provider resistance.
To address new patient-consumer expectations for a more integrated experience and convenience, IDNs are looking for ways to expand from basic tele/video visits to more sophisticated tech, such as remote monitoring, drive-up and vehicle services, and other innovations to promote social distancing for infection control.
3. Integrated Care and Consumerization
The Darwin Research study also found a consistent increase in EHR integration: 63% of respondents say their telemedicine program is integrated into their EHR, up from 55% in October and 48% in June.
The more important point is that these shifts from patient satisfaction to consumerism puts the patient more in control of their care and desire for convenience. And as John stated in our podcast, consumerism was here before COVID; we’re just looking at it now through a different lens.
“Health systems are making sure they’re not just having satisfied patients but allowing them to be a little bit in the driver’s seat. But where things have changed is they’ve realized that there may be a necessity moving forward to be able to use these technologies to be able to see patients,” says John.
4. Behavioral and Population Health
We’ve all experienced a traumatic event together. There is an increased openness to behavioral health and stress management and less stigma attached to admitting that you need help. Population health is no longer an obscure initiative but a genuine concern. There is an existential focus on an evolving mission at the health system level to be healthcare leaders in their communities, making this one of the most important healthcare industry trends.
5. Socioeconomic Health Disparities
The fact is, over time, there has been a massive increase in social determinants of health and health disparities. Minorities and people of lower socioeconomic status fared far worse during COVID, including higher hospital admission rates and higher death rates. COVID brought it into the news and our lives and made us more aware. This new awareness underscores a problem that’s been there all along. As a result, healthcare systems are focusing on addressing healthcare disparities as a key strategic priority for the organization.
6. Employee Wellbeing & Physician Burnout
Many efforts to improve healthcare provider lives and reduce burnout were essentially suspended during COVID. Healthcare workers were pushed to the brink, and as a result, employee wellbeing and support programs are reemerging as vital healthcare trends. Clinicians and others are feeling the cumulative effects of the past year’s herculean efforts.
The Bottom Line
This past year has helped accelerate innovations and placed intense pressure on existing health systems to meet these evolving patient expectations.
Though we have a long way to go in dealing with disparate systems, fully integrated care is the wave of the future.
Remember, the market is moving, with or without you. If you’d like to learn more about how to be the disruptor and not the “disruptee”, you can contact us for a consultation.