2020 was a challenging year. COVID-19 affected everyone and everything in some way, and day-to-day life seemingly came to a halt. Healthcare bent, didn’t break, but has been changed forever. The impacts are far and wide, but some areas impacted the most are:
- How People Receive Care: For as long as there has been healthcare, the assumption was that to receive care, you needed to meet face-to-face with a doctor. COVID-19 took one of the industry’s most used buzz words, telehealth, and accelerated its use very quickly. Providers scrambled to set up telehealth strategies to provide care while also keeping their patients safe. It wasn’t always perfect, but as the months went on, processes were fine-tuned, technologies were deployed, people were trained, and telehealth was widely adopted. Telehealth went from a “nice to have” to a necessity almost overnight. It has proven to be safer, quicker, and very easy. The real question is – is it here to stay?
- Finances: There will be tough financial times in the near term for many health systems. Because of the need to cancel elective surgeries, health systems lost one of their primary income streams. If a health system already had a telehealth solution in place and had substantial money on hand, they will probably emerge from the pandemic in a good place. For less financially sound health systems in rural, smaller areas, they may find themselves in tougher shape. According to Strata Decision, nearly all hospitals were predicted to lose an average of $2,800 per COVID-19 patient case. How will these losses affect technology purchase, staffing, and mergers and acquisitions in 2021?
- Supply Chain: If COVID-19 did any good, it identified severe issues in the supply chain. What became most evident was the inability to have enough PPE (personal protection equipment) for frontline workers. Health systems should be looking to diversify their vendor portfolios and exploring new options to ensure that they have the necessary tools in the future. Maybe this looks like less reliance on foreign manufacturers or shifting from single-source contracts to multi-source contracts as a way to expand. Most importantly, learning from past mistakes is critical to ensure that these issues never surface again.
- Staffing: Hospitals spent a lot of time working to stockpile the necessary PPE and medical equipment to treat patients throughout the pandemic. Unfortunately, due to exposure, illness, the need to care for family, and burnout, healthcare facilities are now facing staffing shortages. Plans need to be put in place to address deficiencies while still maintaining patient care and safety. Staffing is another area where lessons learned will need to be used to ensure that the past will not repeat itself.
In December 2020, with the approval and deployment of multiple COVID-19 vaccines, there is light at the end of the tunnel. That being said, the healthcare industry we once knew will forever be changed. The changes that providers made during the pandemic will be pivotal in making decisions that shape the healthcare industry’s future. What will it look like?