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Healthcare Delivery is Being Dragged (Kicking and Screaming) Into the Modern Era

Chances are you don’t like having to go to the hospital.

It’s full of sick people. It’s impossible to find your way around. And it’s a bit depressing.

If you had to bet, you’d probably put money down that everybody felt this way. And that was before COVID-19 arrived.

When it came barreling through our lives, COVID-19 didn’t just spread infection and death. It destroyed our sense of safety and security. So, three months after America’s hospitals began to overflow with COVID-19 patients, it’s only logical to believe that the way people feel about walking into a hospital has fundamentally changed.

They are scared.

If ReviveHealth’s various research isn’t enough to convince you, the following data points should do the trick. A TransUnion Healthcare study of more than 500 hospitals found that in mid-May, average weekly volumes were down 40% in EDs, 31% in outpatient settings, and 20% in inpatient settings when compared to the beginning of the year.

You can probably guess what people do when they’re scared. Yup. They avoid the thing that scares them. And that’s terrifying news for hospitals, whose COVID-19-ravaged balance sheets need patient volume to stop the hemorrhaging of revenue.

But as the old adage goes, as one door closes, another one opens.

When healthcare providers were forced to (literally) close their doors to non-COVID-19 patients, something interesting happened. Patients took to their smartphones, and telehealth exploded. What had, until COVID-19, been a periphery service with little adoption suddenly took center stage as a vital way for patients to get care.

The healthcare industry, along with emerging telehealth platforms, has been talking about the dawn of the tech era for years. Well, it’s here. And now that patients have experienced it, they’re likely not going back.

These two dynamics — fear that will keep people out of physical healthcare environments, and technology that will give them an alternative — will mix like fire and fuel. They will combine and force healthcare delivery to go BOOM.

If our premise holds, then we are at a seminal moment in time for health systems. They are about to experience a fundamental change in how their customers engage with them and buy their services.

Of course, change creates winners and losers.

Health systems that can make the change and give their customers what they are looking for — tech-backed, convenient experiences that increasingly provide services without physical interaction — will pull away from their competitors. Those that can’t make the change fast enough will come to be seen by customers as dinosaurs.

As a health system leader, you are probably drowning in urgent challenges. It’s hard enough to think about the next quarter, let alone the next year. In the face of such adversity, thinking about the future is hard, since there are problems that need solving right now. But the future is coming at us at the speed of light. And unless you are solving for it — positioning your system to give your customers what they will demand — you may solve lots of day-to-day problems only to arrive at a future you’re not prepared to survive in.

 

 

June 23, 2020
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