5 Healthcare Tech Trends to Watch Post-Pandemic

COVID-19 has possibly been THE disruptor of our generation – the unnerving period of time we will tell our grandchildren about. There is not one industry COVID hasn’t touched in some way – including, most of all, healthcare. Some of these disruptions are temporary in nature, while others will be around longer, making a permanent impact on operations and processes.

Kelly Feist tackles this in her September 2021 Forbes article “Five Technology Disruptions in Healthcare That Will Stick Post-Pandemic”, in which she explores in depth the digital transformations that have been prompted or accelerated by operating under pandemic conditions:

1. Telehealth

In spring 2020, when the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency was declared, telehealth regulations were loosened and payment models introduced that paved the way for wide adoption. Many healthcare offices had to switch to telehealth and many innovative uses of technology were quickly instituted. Now that offices are back open, most services are back and the telehealth trend continues.

A recent McKinsey report shows a stabilizing trend after the 2020 telehealth spike, at a level that is 38 times what it was pre-pandemic. This sustained increase is driven by consumer adoption and provider attitudes that now accept telehealth as an expected service. Regulatory changes from the pandemic have been expanded and made permanent, with additional billing codes for the 2021 and 2022 physician fee schedules. It’s clear, telehealth is here to stay.

2. AI-Assisted Care

At first introduction, AI seems to be a scary, robot-driven futuristic concept. Contrary to popular belief, AI is merely helping those in healthcare reap the rewards, especially now that a large amount of digital healthcare data has been gathered. The conversion to electronic health records is now providing huge benefits in the form of what can be learned from the past and applied to the future.

AI will not replace human clinicians and decision-making abilities, but it can make them much more effective. AI can pick up on trends and cues that aid in preventative care and can perform tasks like prioritizing care to allow healthcare to use limited resources more effectively. COVID-19 has placed a renewed emphasis on population health – leading to AI applications that help identify and manage chronic disease. Healthcare is only beginning to tap into the tremendous potential that AI and machine learning can produce for the future.

3. Open Systems

With the increased digitization of healthcare, it became critical that all of these devices and technologies “talk” to each other and share information. As Feist mentions in her Forbes article, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” She also described healthcare technology as an ecosystem. When thinking about the word ecosystem – we understand that changing any one part of it has a ripple effect on the other parts. Closed systems are a thing of the past, and they hold back organizations from expanding and moving with the times.

4. Value-Based Care

First of all – value-based care isn’t new, but it has come a long way on its journey. The basic tenets – high quality care, lower costs, and better outcomes – are always the goal, but the means to getting there have changed. The pandemic has forced organizations to truly allocate resources and provide care in the most appropriate setting.

One example of this re-organization of care is seen in the movement of Emergency Department (ED) visits to Urgent Care centers and telehealth instead. In the beginning of the pandemic, EDs saw decreased visits due to fear of catching COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders. Now that the worst seems to be over, ED visits are still not up to pre-pandemic levels and have stabilized at around 15% lower. Correctly directing care to the least-expensive setting for the patient acuity level is one way to maximize healthcare dollars going forward.

5. Non-Traditional Partnerships

Companies with seemingly disparate lines of business have been joining forces to deliver healthcare in innovative ways. The Forbes article cites CVS and Aetna’s combined walk-in clinics and drugstores as prime examples. Even during the beginning of the pandemic, we saw manufacturers shifting production of alcoholic spirits to hand sanitizer and GM and Ford switching from automotive manufacturing to ventilators.

These adaptations in the moment have taught us a lesson in inventiveness. Throughout history, periods of adversity often breed creativity and transformation. Healthcare is seeing it now, with ongoing technological advancements that aren’t slowing down anytime soon.

5. Non-Traditional Partnerships

Companies with seemingly disparate lines of business have been joining forces to deliver healthcare in innovative ways. The Forbes article cites CVS and Aetna’s combined walk-in clinics and drugstores as prime examples. Even during the beginning of the pandemic, we saw manufacturers shifting production of alcoholic spirits to hand sanitizer and GM and Ford switching from automotive manufacturing to ventilators.

These adaptations in the moment have taught us a lesson in inventiveness. Throughout history, periods of adversity often breed creativity and transformation. Healthcare is seeing it now, with ongoing technological advancements that aren’t slowing down anytime soon. Learn more about these five healthcare fronts of change by reading the original Forbes article.