COVID-19 Will Spur Permanent Change in Healthcare
U.S. healthcare is archaic but COVID-19 has forced it to rapidly change. Health systems are now being pushed to move beyond their pen to paper method and adopt technologies they put aside for too long. While the pandemic continues to rear its ugly head, there are long-lasting and positive changes that will remain.
1. The Doctor’s Office is Virtual
Telehealth is front and center in the COVID-19 era and the Trump administration has reduced major barriers that have inhibited physicians from using it in the past. Due to that effort, Forrester Research reported that in March alone telehealth visits surged by 50%.
Beyond virtual visits, we’re also seeing an increase in remote patient monitoring tools which is a subcategory of telehealth that allows patients to use mobile medical devices and technology to gather patient-generated health data and send it to healthcare professionals. The FDA issued guidance to expand the availability and use of these tools in the wake of COVID-19. Digital health companies, like our client AliveCor, actively responded to this guidance by offering their KardiaMobile 6L device to monitor and measure long QTc, a side effect of some of the drugs used to combat COVID-19, which can lead to sudden cardiac arrest.
With the large emphasis on telehealth tools, investment in the space continues to surge as evidenced by the nearly $788 million in Q1 funding alone. This trend will continue as simple diagnostic readings, like blood pressure and heart rhythm monitoring, and physician consultations will be handled remotely on the patient’s time.
2. Mental Health is a Chronic Illness
Mental health is a burgeoning healthcare crisis that has been further magnified by COVID-19. Social distancing, while keeping us safe, also spurs feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression. The Kaiser Foundation reported that nearly half of Americans feel that the coronavirus has negatively impacted their mental health.
Similar to general healthcare practitioners, there has been a focus on enabling behavioral health specialists to provide care virtually. However, a recent POLITICO article shared how, despite alleviated regulations, there are still difficulties in reimbursement, and some mental health professionals remain preferential towards in-person visits. We’re also seeing that private sectors are finally investing in mental health companies starting to offer their services as part of their coverage. While there is some support from both the public and private sector, it’s not enough to meet the demand.
Similar to remote patient monitoring, more investments will be made to expand access to behavioral health services as mental health will be categorized as a chronic illness and become ingrained in the healthcare delivery model in a post-COVID world.
3. Value-Based Care will Become the Only Model
The pandemic is causing health systems to think critically about their resources and capacity. They are unable to treat individuals in the same way as they cater to the growing numbers of COVID-19 positive patients.
While extreme, this is value-based care in action. The Affordable Care Act mandated that health systems think critically about how they treat patients – saving hospital beds for those most in need and treating those with less severe issues outside of the traditional healthcare setting. We’re also seeing the same consideration from patients who are now tapping their primary care doctors for more and using telehealth for less urgent matters.
As investment towards digital healthcare innovation continues, we can expect the industry to strategically consider how it cares for patients at large. We’re transitioning away from the era of needing to see our physicians in-person to receive quality care and embracing the benefits of telehealth and remote patient monitoring.
Value-based care will be the only model we track towards moving forward.