For a long time, healthcare in the United States was functioning in a well-defined manner. There were some cracks, some patchwork, but we made it work.
And then COVID-19 struck.
As the pandemic swept across the U.S., the way providers care for patients evolved in a matter of days. It evolved for the people staying at home as well as patients and providers began connecting with each other virtually.
Observation: There’s still plenty of room for innovation in healthcare, but it is not just about developing new technology.
Widespread changes in healthcare can usually take years but in the case of COVID-19, solutions were implemented in a matter of days and healthcare delivery was prioritized to address urgent needs without compromising non-urgent needs. However, for innovation in healthcare to be sustainable and yield economic and quality outcomes, it has to be a collaborative effort.
Healthcare is a team sport
… And no team can function without collaboration and coordination.
Collaboration has been a basic principle of healthcare. While it signifies cooperation among different healthcare stakeholders, it also shines a light on the primary, the overarching goal of patient care. A well-coordinated healthcare system has the potential to enable holistic, cost-effective, and truly patient-centered care- which is key to addressing the deeper challenges in healthcare.
The first and foremost is to enable coordination among care team members. Often, care teams work with fragmented and outdated information. As stated in an article, the COVID-19 outbreak demonstrated massive cracks in one of the most fundamental collaborative infrastructures: data sharing. During the outbreak, public health and federal programs mostly relied on manual ways to mine data and share it to identify surges in infection, conducting useful research, or predict the next hot spot.
For an industry that relies on collaboration, healthcare is simply not using digital information to its fullest potential, let alone enabling seamless data exchange. The compartmentalization of data and healthcare information has not only been a barrier to COVID-19 response but to patient care in general.
Healthcare organizations need to optimize ways of accessing critical information- both clinical and financial – to ensure the patient at the center of it all receives adequate and timely care. By being able to access different facets of patient data such as clinical, billings, appointments, and socioeconomic status, healthcare organizations can truly obtain a complete view of the patients. Armed with this information, care teams can also create dynamic care plans for their patients and reach out to them on the go. Care teams can target the at-risk populations, push reminders to their patients, triage patients based on their risk, and engage with them in more personalized ways.
Synergy among care team members
While fragmented data is an issue when it comes to creating a connected ecosystem of care, healthcare providers often deal with patchy information among care team members as well. Whether a doctor is located across the city or in an entirely different time zone, they should be able to perform their duties via virtual care and telehealth solutions designed to streamline workflows and connect with colleagues as if they were in the same place.
Healthcare providers should be able to share information with each other in real-time or connect over video as well. For example, a doctor in one city might need to connect with a doctor working in the same health system but based in a different city. With the help of a simple video chat, the two can defy distance by connecting “face-to-face” in real-time and have a high-quality conversation, replacing the slow faxes or emails, which are an easy target for cyberattacks. This way, no matter where someone works, they can still do their job securely and effectively.
A healthcare system beyond walls
If there’s one silver lining in the pandemic cloud, it’s that telehealth got the boost it needed – which has proven that virtual consultations are just as effective and arguably, safer than in-person treatment. Which makes it easier to create a healthcare system where patients and providers can connect with each other outside of the brick-and-mortar structure of the current healthcare system.
With virtual, real-time care, patients can also connect with their physicians remotely to consult about their immediate concerns such as an unexplained stomach ache or a skin rash, which can help avoid a trip to the ED or urgent care. This could prove extremely helpful in reducing the number of ED visits and subsequently, lower the cost of care as well.
For U.S. healthcare to evolve into a sophisticated and sustainable system, it is important that healthcare organizations focus on cross-team collaboration and remote care. Because a ‘connected,’ collaborative system is a fairly new concept for healthcare, its benefits definitely outweigh the investment. With the right technology, providers and administrators alike can provide timely and clear updates to their teams anywhere. With the right technology, no distance would be too far in healthcare.
About Sandeep Gupta
Sandeep Gupta is the Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer at Innovaccer, Inc. Prior to co-founding Innovaccer, he had garnered experience in MNCs such as Ingersoll Rand and Microsoft Corporation. Under his leadership, Innovaccer has developed its proprietary data activation platform, which has unified records for more than 24 million members and generated more than $600M in savings. His work and focused approach have also resulted in the latest additional round of Series B investment led by M12, Microsoft’s venture fund.