June 18, 2020 | InBrief

Long-term impact of COVID-19 on healthcare providers’ data and technology

Healthcare providers and health systems have been impacted in the short term. But these potential long-term impacts also need addressing.

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed healthcare providers and health systems to an unprecedented inflection point, and its impacts are likely here to stay. In addition to immediate challenges such as revenue reductions, supply shortages, and strains on physical capacity, it’s reasonable to expect longer-term implications of the pandemic around data, technology, and payment models to reverberate for years.  

We analyze these five long-term impacts, how each will shift the entire healthcare ecosystem for years to come, and what you can do now to address them.

1. Telehealth is here to stay

With relaxations of government restrictions around telehealth reimbursement, visit frequency, and out-of-state providers likely to remain in place, hospitals and providers will be able to continue—or increase—the use of telehealth services well after the crisis subsides. There is also a growing consumer expectation at work, as patients are increasingly turning to telehealth services out of preference, not just requirement. Health systems and providers will expand telehealth offerings as a now-proven means of delivering care at a lower cost, when and where patients need it. Whether you’re looking for a rapid rollout of telehealth services or seeking to map out your broader telehealth strategy, telehealth appears to be with us for the long run.

2. Data standardization and sharing will continue gaining momentum

Private partnerships between tech and healthcare entities like that of HCA and Google, who launched a data-sharing platform in May to track COVID-19 test results and supplies of critical equipment, have been part of a wave of consolidations and strategic partnerships for improved data-sharing. With COVID-19 highlighting process gaps and inefficiencies such as those related to the data hospitals are required to report to local or state health departments, this trend is likely to continue. Watch for government directives around data standardization to gain momentum and think about potential opportunities to invest and partner in the drive toward interoperability. 

3. Investment in quality ERP systems and supply chain management is essential

The demand for PPEs and DMEs has been at the forefront of the challenges posed by COVID-19, and supply chain disruptions have exposed flaws in hospitals’ ERP systems and processes. Fragmented systems and manual workarounds make actual supply needs difficult to trace and inhibit the timely placing of replacement orders. Hospitals should consider updating their ERP systems and supply chain processes with a focus on automation and disaster planning.  

4. Micro and macro healthcare payment models will continue to undergo scrutiny

At the micro level, assessments of compensation models for telemedicine visits – which have historically been paid out at lower rates than in-person visits – will continue as provider and payer organizations alike attempt to measure the value of telehealth services. At the macro level, we’ve seen the American College of Physicians (ACP) issue an open letter to CMS requesting a hold on performance-related penalties for 2020. Since then, CMS has relaxed value-based care requirements, given the difficulty of hitting normal metrics in the current environment.

Balancing the need to recoup revenue in the near term with longer-term strategies for value-based arrangements will be an ongoing challenge for the healthcare industry. The likelihood of deep and lasting impacts – both positive and negative – of COVID-19 on the movement toward value-based care seems more certain, and hospitals, health systems, and ACOs will need to continue assessing reimbursement structures in light of the strains placed on both fee-for-service and value-based arrangements by a global health crisis. Access to the right data at the right times will be crucial to achieving desired cost and quality outcomes.

5. It all comes down to cost

The protection of financial health is—and will continue to be—a driving force behind the four preceding trends. Whether looking at IT, human capital management, supply chain management, or changing asset composition as “brick-and-mortar” footprints are reduced, healthcare organizations will need the ability to closely monitor operating costs and be ready to advance overhead-reduction strategies for both immediate and long-term fiscal viability. To those ends, improved data governance and predictive analytics will be essential for health systems to chart their paths forward.

Faced with these trends, we have determined that providers and health systems need a unified, data-driven diagnosis of the areas most impacted by the pandemic. Such a rapid alignment will be essential to understanding an organization’s current health and readiness for change, establishing a firm foundation for stablized operations to grow into a long-term focus on competitive advantage. 

Our in-depth healthcare industry expertise and technology know-how will help you define key scenarios, conduct data analyses, and prioritize recommendations for immediate action and long-term business continuity as your organization faces today’s challenges and prepares for tomorrow’s vision. 

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