No one could have predicted all that has happened in healthcare this year. Virtual care skyrocketed overnight, with both patients and providers embracing it. While care at a distance has been a necessity through the pandemic, is it now becoming what patients want and expect. Our research found that since COVID-19, 60% of patients want to use technology more for their healthcare and 9 out of 10 patients said the quality of care was “as good or better” than before COVID-19.

So how can healthcare organizations build on this momentum? I believe there is great promise to look at this unprecedented time in healthcare as an opportunity to do better. The opportunities are vast across the care continuum to give patients what they need, where and when they need it, with the right tools to bring it all together.

Delivering the kinds of services patients need

The pandemic has brought forth new “human truths.” Healthcare consumer confidence has been shaken and trust is more important than ever. Our COVID-19 Consumer Health Experience Survey 2020 revealed that 64% of patients are likely—or highly likely—to switch to a new health system if their expectations are not met regarding sanitary and safety protocols, access to up-to-date information and the availability of virtual care options. Organizations must rebuild trust with consumers by alleviating causes of friction in the patient experience and enhancing virtual care options.

In addition, the types of services that patients want to access virtually and in-person have changed. The pandemic’s effects on behavioral and mental health cannot be ignored as 1 in 5 people suffer from mental health issues. We need to address this health challenge and to do that, we need to make use of digital channels and tools. Our research found that the use of virtual delivery channels could expand treatment to 53 million Americans suffering from behavioral health issues. When people can access these critical services confidentially via a smart phone or laptop, they may be more likely to get the care they need.

Providing care when and where patients need it

I think back to my first exposure to healthcare as a child. My grandfather ran a small clinic out of his home in rural Pennsylvania. He did what he could to serve the community where they needed care—whether at his clinic or in their homes. Technology allows us to apply those same principles today.

Technology brings providers right into the living rooms of patients. And technology advances offer even more options to treat people at home. For example, smartphones equipped with sensors can continuously monitor a variety of health issues, including respiratory conditions, to help those with chronic conditions. Conversational user interfaces and chatbots are beginning to interact with clinical data, empowering providers with information by which to make the next best decision. 

Innovative businesses are thinking beyond virtual care encounters to explore other ways in which technology can improve care delivery. For instance, Best Buy deployed its Geek Squad agents globally to go into homes and set up medical equipment to assist with remote monitoring. Healthcare organizations have even replaced registration and waiting rooms with touch screens and technology that allows for seamless scheduling, registration and access.

Consumers have gotten a taste of these technology options during the pandemic—and they want more.

Having the right tools to make it all possible

Clearly, virtual care is here to stay. But not all organizations have the technology underpinning to support these breakthroughs in care delivery. I believe the cloud is the foundation for digital transformation in healthcare. It allows us to connect devices and systems in ways that will make the entire industry faster and more fluid. The cloud also helps provide a true long-term, comprehensive, inclusive view of a patient’s health issues.

Healthcare executives most frequently cite the ability to launch applications faster, better security and greater agility as the top benefits of cloud. In fact, 44% of healthcare chief information officers rank cloud services as a top-three investment priority. The technologies available to improve patient care are ever evolving, so providers must be equipped with cloud in order to adopt them quickly.

The industry is recognizing the value of cloud, but not all have fully adopted cloud to build the necessary capabilities for proactive and insightful patient care. 

Embarking on an exciting future of care delivery

COVID-19 hasn’t dampened digital innovation; it has amplified it to historic new levels. The pandemic also showed us that patients and providers alike are open to the possibilities for using technology and data to enhance the care experience. Now is the time to build on the momentum and explore the possibilities for transforming the future of care.

Hear Kristin discuss more about the future of healthcare in her recent panel discussion with The Economist.

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Future gazing: Healthcare in 2021 and beyond

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Kristin Ficery

Managing Director – Consulting, Health Lead, North America

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