The world is in the middle of a pandemic and global economic crisis. Here at home, COVID-19 presents unique hardships and challenges for all Americans, especially those of us in healthcare.
Our industry is responding by becoming primarily focused on the clear and present priorities of caring for our patients and communities while working to maintain the health and safety of our physicians, nurses and other clinical staff. It’s an anxious and frightening time for everyone as every aspect of daily life is disrupted. Most members of society have lost their sense of normality, and there are very few positive things to say about the rapidly developing situation. But that doesn’t mean there will be no positives to arise from this crisis.
I don’t feel good about saying it, but very few things could rival COVID-19 for catalyzing and accelerating the long anticipated “transformation of healthcare.” There will be no “back to normal” once this crisis is over. For far too long our industry has been stuck in a stagnant paradigm. We talked about real change, but we didn’t really change. Then, suddenly, everything changed.
Courtesy of COVID-19, the genie is out of the bottle. In response to this unprecedented virological threat, our industry and its regulators are aggressively adopting a contemporary service mindset and the modern tools and technologies that come with it—remote workforce; social networking; progressive, real-time communication, coordination and collaboration tools; telehealth and telemedicine; remote clinical observation and disease management; medical intervention by exception; self-service diagnostics and self-care; payment and reimbursement concessions; predictive analytics and knowledge management; artificial intelligence and informational chatbots; top-of-licensure clinical practice; ubiquitous access; cross-industry collaborations; innovative care models—the list goes on and on.
Most importantly, we are now witnessing global, national, regional and local data- and information-sharing and the sharing of best practices as we all work to make a dramatic shift from the diagnosis and treatment of disease to the prediction and prevention of disease. Incredible. And all of this in just a few short weeks.
Yes, the genie is out of the bottle, but these major transformative changes did not come as the result of wishes granted. Just a couple of short decades ago our industry was primarily manual, paper-based, nondigital and disconnected. Data was collected, but rarely used. Communication and collaboration were collegial, but most often conversational. And our tools, technologies and techniques were jealously guarded as market differentiators in an increasingly competitive landscape. Over those 20-plus years, we modernized, but slowly.
Bending to both noble and market pressures, our industry invested in electronic health records and clinical ancillary systems; leveraged data to improve safety, security and quality; focused on interoperability; and endeavored to become a more consumer-centric, data-driven provider of health and wellness services. In short, our industry’s collective efforts and significant investments over the previous 20 years have prepared us well for this singular, transformative moment. Clearly, time and money well spent.
As a result of this coronavirus crisis and our collective response to it, we just might be seeing what healthcare can look like once this crisis has passed. And it will pass, leaving all of us, and those we exist to serve, with a very different idea of what is possible from a transformed and consumer-centric healthcare industry. Simply, and at great risk of sensationalizing the milestone, the end of the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis will mark the beginning of a new day in healthcare.
During the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing on March 21, President Donald Trump observed, “We’ve dramatically expanded telehealth so Americans can see a doctor without leaving home—something which more and more people are using and now they’re really using it. And I think we’re going to change the way our country functions medically, and probably in other ways, because of what’s going on right now.”
Indeed. Welcome to the world, genie.