The rapid onset and proliferation of COVID-19 (coronavirus) cases have forced healthcare providers to adapt the way they approach everything from patient testing to preventative medicine.
Technology implementation is one area that has seen the most growth in the midst of this pandemic. With many patients feeling hesitant to visit their doctor's office, telemedicine especially has seen a boost in popularity. This is in addition to the integration of other mobile technologies, such as tablets that clinicians can use throughout the day for documentation and communication with patients and other providers.
Telemedicine and mobile technologies aren’t the only methods providers are using to modernize care delivery.
1. New testing methods
Rapid testing sites have popped up across the U.S.—including drive-through testing areas at hospitals and retail clinics. Many of these sites are urgent care centers, retail pharmacies, and popup walk-through testing sites.
Patients are increasingly opting to use healthcare services that are convenient and inexpensive. Walk- and drive-through testing services may continue to be popular during flu season and for other illnesses as quick and low-touch alternatives to traditional appointments at clinics and primary care offices.
In order to properly address any population health risk, healthcare leaders need information. From contact tracing efforts to interactive dashboards, organizations are compiling and offering open-source data hubs to the public—free of charge.
In March 2020, global information services company Esri partnered with various data providers to offer dashboards tracking the spread of coronavirus and hospital bed capacity. Some of the tools sponsored by Esri and its partners include severe risk mapping, tracking of confirmed cases on state and global levels, and a coronavirus recovery dashboard.
Datavant, a global healthcare data services company, focused their annual Hackathon on pandemic response. More than 230 teams convened over one weekend to create apps, heatmaps, simulators, and dashboards on topics including public health information sharing, epidemiology, societal impacts, and protecting healthcare workers.
In May 2020, Definitive Healthcare created a standalone dashboard, the COVID-19 Reopening Analysis Predictor, to forecast when it would be safe for states to reopen businesses. The information used in the index includes number of COVID-19 tests administered, number of positive tests, and number of reported deaths from COVID-19—as well as hospitalization rates, ICU cases, and ventilator use. For an in-depth explanation of how to use the reopening dashboard, watch our on-demand webinar, Predictions and Considerations for Safe Reopening Timelines.
Many other organizations are offering free public datasets and dashboards as well, including Google and Tableau. Even the New York Times has compiled an open data site to access, share, and utilize COVID-19 data.
3. Supply chain management
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in major shortages of essential healthcare supplies, including ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPEs) like face masks, gloves, and gowns. In response, manufacturers and suppliers have had to adapt in order to help meet increased demand for both healthcare professionals and the general public.
For many of these suppliers, repurposing is a way to keep production going to avoid layoffs and closures. While this flexibility has been largely helpful in the healthcare industry, it raises questions regarding the long-term ability of suppliers to diversify production and delivery methods to avoid similar shortages in the future.
In addition, once the initial waves of the pandemic subside, hospitals and other care facilities will have a surplus of ventilators and potentially other supplies that they will have no immediate use for. Hospital and health system leaders will have to find ways to properly store these machines and may also want to stock up on PPEs like face shields, goggles, N95 masks, and others.
With pre-emptive purchasing at the forefront of client concerns, group purchasing organizations will be under greater pressure to deliver necessary supplies within a strict budget—particularly since many hospitals will be under financial stress due to the postponement of elective surgeries. Because of this, manufacturers may face increased demand for PPEs and other equipment even after the number of COVID-19 cases subsides while also returning to regular production.
It is difficult to pinpoint the myriad ways COVID-19 will impact care delivery and the wider healthcare industry in the coming years—or even the next few months.