It’s no longer business as usual in healthcare. The pandemic has brought forth a lot of changes across our healthcare sector, fast-tracking innovation and in many cases, bringing to light a better way of getting things done. From expediting provider credentials to widening access to care for patients, organizations of all shapes and sizes are eager to adopt more efficient methods of providing care.
During the past year and a half, many organizations have reacted quickly to create new technologies as a direct result of the challenges of COVID-19. In other cases, we have technologies that are not novel; they’ve been around for a while (ahem, telemedicine!). However, the COVID-19 crisis elevated their value and lit a fire to bring them into the standard practice of care long term.
There is a long list of innovations we could highlight here, but for now, we’ve selected a few that we see as must-haves for any healthcare organization — pandemic or no pandemic. With 2022 just a few short months away, here is a list of the top five trends to have on your radar:

On-demand healthcare

There has been a push for more consumer-centered healthcare now for a while, especially when it comes to primary care. People want accessible care that’s patient-friendly and technologically focused and incorporates models that cut costs for employers and consumers. One Medical is an example of a company striving to do this very thing. Members can make appointments and text, email, or video chat 24/7 with their medical providers, thanks to a digital platform. There are clinics patients can visit in-person if desired and needed. Because One Medical’s model is to put physicians on salary rather than fee-for-visit, patients generally get more time with their doctor. The beauty of One Medical and companies like them is that it’s a merger of technology and in-person care — a true hybrid — rather than an all-or-nothing approach.

Teladoc is another company that stepped up in a big way during COVID-19 to give patients access when care was severely limited. It also supports the old adage, “not everyone gets sick on a weekday.” These days, the Monday–Friday, 9-to-5 model of care works for few — companies like One Medical and Teladoc are acknowledging that and shaking up models of care to show flexibility and care that caters to patients’ wants and needs can work. These fundamentals can be applied to medical practices of all shapes and sizes and something practices should keep an eye on as the trend of flexible care grows.

Modernized provider credentialing

Provider credentialing has been critical in managing the workforce demands of COVID-19. Managing credentials for providers within a practice or hospital can be a lengthy, complicated, and costly process if done manually (oftentimes with Post-its and Excel spreadsheets), yet this is still the process for many healthcare organizations. Credentialing for telemedicine that involves physicians crossing state lines or switching organizations gets even trickier. However, the research shows providers and patients like telemedicine, so finding ways to credential for telemedicine in a timely manner is crucial. Furthermore, as the pandemic showed, providers (and patients) can no longer wait 90 days to start working.

The pandemic has caused major staff issues for providers; burnout and physician shortages were issues even long before COVID-19. We need to get qualified providers working quickly. The technology to make this process seamless for healthcare organizations already exists. Modio’s cloud-based credentialing software vastly improves antiquated processes. Real-time primary-sourced data can be centralized and automated, making provider verification easier, quicker, more accurate, and protected. Practices using Modio’s OneView credentialing platform have shortened facility credentialing time by 70% while reducing overall administrative time by more than 80% and cutting credentialing costs.

We need to free doctors and nurses to practice where they are needed, when they are needed. Provider credential management will always be essential for the safety of patients and those who care for them.

Supporting physician and practice growth

This brave new world of healthcare is not just about empowering patients and healthcare organizations; it’s also about empowering physicians to take charge of their growth and how they build their practices. For example, take the company Zocdoc. Originally the company worked with doctors to schedule in-person visits, but during the pandemic, the company quickly transitioned its services to include telehealth options.
Zocdoc also works closely with providers to help fill in openings in their schedule and also strengthen their online reviews. In a world where Yelp-style reviews can make or break any business, this type of tool allows physicians to be extremely proactive in taking charge of their practice and ability to reach new patients.

Advanced COVID-19 screening tools

Quick, reliable screening for COVID-19 will no doubt be a major asset as we continue to battle variations of the virus, particularly in places such as the ED where patients need to be assessed quickly. MobiHealth News reported on a recent study led by the University of Oxford that found the CURIAL-Rapide test could screen ER patients at the bedside within 10 minutes, without needing a laboratory. According to the article, results were available 45 minutes after patients arrived at the ED — 26% faster than with lateral flow tests (LFTs). Additionally, when measured against a PCR test, considered the “gold standard,” the AI test correctly ruled out the infection 99.7% of the time.

Waiting on a lab to confirm a positive COVID-19 case is not ideal, particularly in the ER where time is of the essence. Being able to quickly rule out patients with the virus would be a huge asset to protecting frontline healthcare workers as well as other patients. Additionally, a company called Tiger Tech is seeking FDA approval for an AI-powered wearable armband that uses light sensors to sense blood flow and potentially spot COVID-19. Fierce Healthcare reported, “Within three to five minutes, it uses an artificial intelligence model to crunch the data on the person’s pulse rate and other factors to determine whether their blood could be clotting more easily than normal,” a sign of COVID-19, and “when combined with temperature checks, it could help spot people over the age of 5 who are carrying the virus without showing any symptoms.”

Continuing the work of telemedicine

Perhaps most significantly, COVID-19 brought the true value and benefits of telemedicine to the forefront. Telemedicine is growing fast, having increased 53% from 2016 to 2017, and the market is expected to hit $130 billion by 2025. One survey found that physician telehealth adoption is up 340% from 2015 when only 5% of physicians reported having ever used telemedicine.

The many efforts made to increase telemedicine use during the pandemic, including regulators relaxing restrictions for Medicare-paid visits, encouraging states and insurers to provide similar flexibility under private policies, and expediting credentialing for providers, proved successful. Telemedicine’s usefulness in behavioral health really shone. But most of these measures were temporary — telemedicine and its benefits we now know are not temporary, so where do we go from here to expand it?

There is no overnight solution. However, there are steps policymakers can take to figure out how best to regulate telemedicine post-pandemic. Data will serve a big role in showing what’s working and what isn’t. Improving credentialing for telemedicine will be an important first step. There are resources that make it easier — for example, the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, which makes it easier for physicians to get licensed in multiple states, is a start.

It’s an exciting time for digital health. All of these new advancements coming to market are designed to make healthcare more efficient and seamless. We’re also seeing innovations that have been around for a long time prove their worth, pandemic or no pandemic. Keeping an eye on the changing trends in our sector will ensure practices can be proactive and successfully adapt to our evolving industry.

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