COVID-19 Will Provide Major Boost to Healthcare Consumerization


As hospitals and health systems struggle to regain revenue, they will find themselves competing aggressively to attract and retain a smaller pool of patients. It will require doubling down on the patient experience, but will create a larger boost of healthcare consumerization, overall.

As hospitals and health systems struggle to recoup revenue, they will find themselves competing aggressively to attract and retain a smaller pool of patients. It will require doubling down on the patient experience, but will create a larger boost of healthcare consumerization, overall.

Due to COVID-19, many hospitals and health systems are going through significant revenue losses right now. Healthcare organizations have needed to shift their priorities to train hospital staff in order to operate accordingly during a pandemic. To reduce transmission of the virus, these facilities needed to determine a new way of managing patients, their facility, admissions process, testing and processing claims. Further, hospitals and health systems had to manage staff reallocation because of the pandemic, and furloughed large percentages of their staff due to mass cancellations of procedures. This left very limited staff available to actually see patients in need, and there were less resources to support patients with other illnesses, according to Donna Martin, senior vice president of HGS Healthcare​, a global business process management company.

More loss in revenue was also caused by most, if not all elective and outpatient procedures in many cases, being cancelled due to COVID-19. Any available medical resources have been needed to focus on the most critical cases and take every precaution necessary to try to prevent the spread of the virus to the sickest and most vulnerable using limited surgeries, limited inpatient room use and shortened length of stays, which all contributed to lost revenue, Martin says.

In addition, doctors have been forced to see only half or a third of the number of patients per day than they regularly do, further reducing revenues. A limit on patient appointments are also in effect because of the amount of time it takes for limited staff to clean patient examination rooms and laboratories (between 15 to 30 minutes) due to extreme cleaning protocols. Also, cleaning between surgeries can take anywhere from two to four hours now, which means the number of surgical procedures possible per day is limited as well.

Although COVID-19 has presented many challenges for healthcare, especially financial-wise, the pandemic is expected to provide the biggest boost in consumerization of healthcare because of the adoption of telehealth and virtual visits, Martin says.

"The future of consumerization of healthcare will lead to less patients being seen in person and having face-to-face interactions with medical staff (because use of telehealth increased). We will also see an increase in alternative and other self-help options that are over-the-counter. There will be a greater use of mini-clinics and ambulatory facilities than larger institutions in the future, also," she says. "During the first few months of quarantine, hospitals and health systems discovered right away how imperative it is to maintain proper level of supplies during a pandemic. We’ll see this lead to the future of healthcare in addition to the use of more robotics in the supply chain."

The adoption of these services and tools are an essential investment for the sake of patient experience and keeping them a priority. While revenue losses are high, patient experience must remain that top priority to support those in need most with the proper level of care. Higher levels of patient experience directly relate to higher profitability, more positive staff, higher level of medical outcomes and more patient engagement and referrals.

Martin says healthcare systems can prioritize patient experience investments by focusing on the quality of care first and foremost.

"Without this (strategy), health professionals will never achieve patient loyalty. It’s important to invest in tools, platforms, data and other technology to enable patient convenience and options," she says. "Further, medical staff should engage in learning more about each individual patient and personalize all interactions. Hospital and health systems should also invest in culture, training and balanced lifestyles of health system employees to enable a more positive staff and patient experience. By investing more in post care engagement and health coaching, this will assure positive outcomes."

With the path healthcare is taking toward treating the new patient experience, some trends to expect by 2021 are the increase in concierge-care, improved and more personalized telehealth visits, self-service options, omni-channel engagement, greater use of data, increased home/mobile health care options and more options for mental and behavioral health support, virtually.

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