COVID 19 will have a far-reaching impact on many industries. What consumers buy, why they buy, and the way they buy is already undergoing a sea change with the consumers shifting to digital channels in a big way. While the shift to digital was already evident even before COVID emerged, the pace definitely has accelerated. Healthcare, for sure is one thing that will see a drastic shift in the way it is consumed. 

 

No one country has perfected the healthcare delivery. Every country has its own set of challenges to deal with, whether it is an inefficient public healthcare delivery model or the insurance model as pivoted by the US. In spite of being scientifically one of the most advanced economies, the US still does not have a universal healthcare program. Healthcare is too expensive and difficult-to-fix because of many reasons including the not-so-ideal health insurance model. While there are varying reasons for inefficient healthcare delivery, the fundamental problem is supply and demand mismatch. The demand for healthcare professionals, doctors, hospital beds, and equipment by far exceeds the supply. With a burgeoning population, the demand for healthcare will only go up. The aging population in the US and Europe will only soar the demand for healthcare and put more pressure on the existing resources. However, the supply side is not so easy to fix. It is not possible to produce more doctors, healthcare professionals, drugs, devices, healthcare infrastructure in a short span of time. Here is where we believe technology holds great promise and care delivered via virtual or telehealth can transform the consumer experience and address the demand-supply mismatch.

 

As the world comes out from lockdowns forced by various countries, social distancing will become the new norm. As more people adopt technology and governments push for the new working norms, users will start consuming healthcare digitally and becoming more accustomed to virtual appointments with doctors. More consumers will become comfortable with the fact that care need not be a face to face appointment and can be virtual through video-conferencing using mobile apps.

 

Telehealth may be the solution we need to address the issue of healthcare delivery. Telehealth or virtual health addresses the demand-supply mismatch as care is independent of time and location, so patients in New York can consult a doctor in California or San Francisco remotely sitting at their homes. The full range of health services can be accessed right from preventive healthcare to diagnosis of an illness and management of chronic conditions. The enabling technologies include video, mobile applications, AI tools, secure messaging, mobile monitoring devices, wearables, and more. Video conferencing provides an immersive experience and helps to provide more focussed and collaborative care. It allows the healthcare provider to collect the patient data and deliver personalized care from a remote location and offers the consumers better transparency into their past history, care plans, and much more. Using Artificial Intelligence, they can convert data into meaningful insights and recommendations. Using cognitive analytical applications can help them synthesize vast amounts of information to guide clinical treatment decisions. 

 

As per an Accenture survey, despite a very strong interest shown by consumers, only 21% say they have received some form of virtual care at some point in time. Most of the ones who did receive virtual care said their experience was very positive. Over 71% of those surveyed had an awareness of virtual care whereas 27% said they had never heard about it. COVID 19 may just reduce this gap.

 

Interestingly, here is a list of things consumers consider before choosing their healthcare provider:

  • Acceptability of their insurance
  • Lower waiting times
  • Accessibility 
  • Good recommendations

 

Virtual health scores over traditional models in most of these cases. With shared capacity, it reduces the waiting times significantly. Since virtual health is time and location independent, it offers far better accessibility. Virtual health or telehealth also offers an opportunity to earn the loyalty of consumers. Using the data generated and profiling the consumers intelligently, sending personalized texts, virtual appointment reminders, and targetted patient education content, there is a higher likelihood of earning the trust and loyalty of the consumers. It also makes it easier to get more recommendations and reviews on social media and other digital channels.

 

For healthcare organizations, it makes an interesting business case to invest in digital tools including consumer-centered mobile applications, scheduling engines, AR, and VR capabilities, thus building strong telehealth and virtual health capabilities. Custom-built apps will enhance the patient-doctor interaction, coordinate care effectively, and help improve utilization of the patients' and doctors' time. Using a combination of in-person and virtual health, clinician capacity worth billions of dollars can be created, implying a much better ROI. It allows for better utilization of their existing resources and lowers the costs through sharing. 

 

There can be no better time to enter virtual health now. Organizations need to include virtual care as a priority in their overall strategy. They also need to advise and encourage their consumers to use their mobile apps, health apps, wearables, and explore new ways to collaborate with them and importantly, offer virtual plans aggressively. Security of data will be paramount here and the organizations need to walk the extra mile to ensure that their digital assets including apps, scheduling engines adhere to the highest level of data security standards. Although COVID pushes many to try virtual health, the patients and consumers must feel secure while sharing their data and hence sustain the movement from traditional to digital health. 

 

Innovantes is a global technology company in digital health and has helped numerous healthcare clients including Fortune 500 companies develop strong virtual health capabilities. Our strong expertise in software engineering, enterprise mobility, software solutions, custom web and mobile application development using cutting edge technology, especially in the healthcare domain, has helped our clients improve the quality of care, improve patient engagement, and improve ROI. Let us help you navigate the new digital health landscape.

Author


Paramvir Bakshi