Migrating paper charts to electronic medical records took over 10 years and it would not have happened without regulatory powers pushing and offering financial incentives. Healthcare innovation is known for being hard and moving slow. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year in the U.S. led to the largest healthcare pivot to-date towards providing virtual care –and it all happened in a matter of months.  In a recent webinar I participated in, Mass General Brigham is reported that year over year they saw an increase of 248,500 virtual visits and they estimate that moving forward, 30% of all visits will be virtual.  Another recent study by McKinsey estimates that 76% of all Americans are interested in utilizing telehealth moving forward, compared to an 11% use of telehealth by Americans in 2019.  

Right now, our healthcare organizations are focused on doing everything they can do to keep things under control in this new age of Covid-19. But as digital health leaders, you have to wonder “what happens next” in terms of both short-term and long-term strategy for care delivery.

  1. Supply will meet the needs of the demand
    New telehealth solutions are popping up everyday giving health systems a LOT to choose from.  Between new startups and the industry leading EMR’s adding the capability of telehealth solutions, healthcare organizations must identify what the best solution is for them to be able to serve their community. 
     
  2. Health system competition just got a lot bigger
    “Health system A” used to compete with “Health system B” down the street or in the next town over. But now virtually every health system invested in a successful telehealth strategy is a competitor to the local health system. Access to care has an entirely new meaning and consumers now have more options – a confirmed, personal priority and preference for today’s consumer. Now, consumers can look up the telemedicine services of almost any health system and sign up to become a patient. 
     
  3. Margins will be higher on visits until they aren’t
    No masks, no gloves, no thermometer sleeve and no in-person receptionist means that each virtual visit has virtually zero supply cost.  Today, most visits are billed the same amount but soon payers will be tracking the real cost of  virtual visits and will reimburse appropriately.  
     
  4. “Patient Experience” has fundamentally changed
    The term “patient experience” is often touted by technology companies as a value proposition for services to sell but really the “patient experience” is largely dependent on healthcare providers — their attitudes, their proficiencies, their workflow and processes, and their mission and values. A stressed and anxious patient leads to poor outcomes so healthcare organizations do everything they can to keep patients calm and comfortable.  This was widely approached through a “high touch” process, a direct provider-to-patient relationship, but that has in essence changed.  In order to address the major concern of quality of care via telehealth voiced by skeptical consumers and providers alike, healthcare organizations need to think through system-wide quality of care and patient experience planning and initiatives as a top priority.
     
  5. We made our bed, now we need to sleep in it
    I wish every aspect of our lives could go back to the way they were before, but they won’t.  The reality today is we now have set the expectation with patients that telehealth solutions are available anywhere and we can’t walk that back. Consumers of healthcare will now have expectations on telehealth options and will also expect those options to evolve and innovate just like our TV’s and phones have.  Healthcare organizations, more than ever, need to start thinking like cloud-based software companies.  

About Quil

Quil, a digital health company, delivers actionable and personalized health itineraries for patients and caregivers, answering the question “What Happens Next?” in their healthcare journeys. Quil is a joint venture of Independence Blue Cross and Comcast. We combine the powers of precision data, state-of-the-art technology, and security with unparalleled consumer reach to help individuals navigate today’s chaotic healthcare landscape. Headquartered in Philadelphia, PA with additional offices in New York City, Quil serves individuals, healthcare providers, and payors nationally.