This blog is a continuation of our conversation about the findings of our Vendor Performance in Response to the COVID-19 Crisis report. In part I, we discussed the incredible responses of healthcare IT vendors during this pandemic. Here, we’ll consider the larger technological ramifications the industry faces due to the unique circumstances of COVID-19.
The Missing String
When I think of how the COVID-19 pandemic has forced healthcare to adapt over the past months, it reminds me of playing the guitar.
I have a friend who is a fantastic guitarist. One of the best things he ever did while learning to play was to remove a string. At first, playing a song with the missing string seemed impossible. But with a lot of practice, my friend learned new fingerings that would produce the same notes he needed to play the songs.
He realized that playing with a string missing helped him to be more creative and come up with different ways to accomplish the same goal. And once he put the missing string back on his guitar, he was a stronger musician and guitarist.
With patients visiting facilities to see clinicians much less frequently, it feels like we’re missing a string from our guitar. But the healthcare industry is adapting new technologies faster than it ever has before, to get the job done in a different way.
A Technological Watershed
COVID-19 has made us realize we can do things we never thought we could — and do them well. When we reach a point where we can combine how things were done before with what we have discovered, we will have transformed healthcare as we know it. Before the pandemic, no one on this planet would argue that we were utilizing telehealth to its full potential. But now, forced into this situation, we are realizing we can do so much more.
Telehealth isn’t the only healthcare area laid bare by COVID-19. I think provider organizations have discovered that they aren’t so strong in leveraging analytics to understand their patient populations. Being able to report supply needs to the government was mainly happening through email and spreadsheets. There’s a lot of interoperability, remote patient monitoring, and general EHR functionality that we are not utilizing, which is keeping healthcare from rising to its full potential.
I see this as a watershed moment for healthcare. Everything is changing, and if we don’t take leaps and bounds, we’re going to find ourselves left behind and in a really tough position.
Prove Your Platform
Over the past six months, we’ve been able to look at some of the quick fixes implemented practically overnight at the beginning of the pandemic. It turns out that the quickest solution to implement isn’t always the best long-term solution.
Many virtual meeting platforms, such as tools from Zoom and Doxy.me, saw a huge increase in use as telehealth became broadly adopted. Vendors like Zoom have been doing their best to prove to providers in the short term that they have viable long-term solutions.
Through our outreach, we’re getting feedback in both directions. Some organizations are planning to continue to work with their quick stopgap platform and are impressed by the user interface and positive patient reactions. Others realize they require much more from their platform in terms of interoperability and full integration to their workflows.
Looking forward, we can expect to see some vendors develop full-suite virtual care and mobile patient monitoring platforms. Some platforms will remain as just a way to conduct virtual visits. But it will be cool to see how some vendors incorporate more patient engagement and integrate patient portals, scheduling, and so on.
Put Your Money Where Your Tech Is
We have seen this technological push forward reflected in the projected budgets of the organizations that we surveyed while gathering research for our report.
As you can see in the chart to the left, the majority of provider organizations are cutting back on their budgets during this time. But the chart on the right offers an important view into how these organizations will prioritize the resources they have. Practically three quarters of these providers are all intending to invest more in technology.
Just like with every other economic sector, the way we will do business in healthcare in 2021 will not be the same way we did it in 2019. Despite circumstances being less than ideal, we’ve come to realize that the technologies we’ve been forced to deal with during the pandemic actually make our work better. But the only way to make this technological progress actually have a long-term effect is to continue to invest in it, and that’s the reaction we are seeing.
We still have a lot of learning to do, but the advancements we are seeing technologically will change the way we work in healthcare forever, and we will be stronger because of it. Be sure to check out our full report for more information on telehealth platforms being implemented now.