The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will resonate through healthcare for years to come, now that the initial shock has come to an end. For many independent practices and smaller healthcare systems, the pandemic caused great financial hardship that will be tough to overcome. What this means is that there is a growing divide between the “haves and have-nots” of providers and physicians.
Providers and healthcare systems with strong digital strategies in place and accessibility to telehealth from the start will survive, while many practices which are smaller, perhaps in more rural areas, and not using the latest digital technologies may succumb to a hospital consolidation or be forced to close their doors.
How Covid-19 Changed the Patient Experience
When we look back on this time, it will be clear that this was a turning point in the way health care is delivered to patients. Telehealth is single-handedly changing the workflow and how patients and physicians are having appointments. Urgent care, emergency rooms, and even annual, regular appointments with a primary care doctor are all possible via a telehealth platform.
This platform was urgent and an obvious choice when the stay-at-home orders were mandated. However, the push for telehealth and moving to a virtual healthcare system reduces unnecessary visits, allows physicians to maximize profits and efficiency, while remaining safe and prohibiting the spread of COVID-19.
There has been a huge uptick in patient engagement online – which means telehealth is becoming the norm for how patients expect to interact with their doctors. Patients who previously expected a doctor-led approach to their healthcare are finding the ease, convenience, and safety of technological ways to receive their care.
Long Term Effects of Covid-19 in Healthcare
Expedited Telehealth Care
For many practices and physicians, it was long believed that they would not be able to operate virtually – until the pandemic. Overnight, the way they saw patients changed and transformed into remote care. In fact, some experts say that COVID-19 accelerated telemedicine by a decade. It is proving to be more effective, safer, and financially smarter for both patients and physicians.
Since March, telehealth has allowed patients with low mobility, failing health, and those with compromised immune systems to see physicians seamlessly and effectively. This is because the availability of data and collaboration has continued to evolve.
Decrease in Nursing Homes
During this time, nursing homes and assisted living facilities have been scrutinized for increasing the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in certain states. While these types of care facilities can provide around-the-clock care, it is becoming less appealing to house the medically vulnerable in close quarters.
This leads to the increased demand for in-home care services. People want to live independently and have that mindset – not be “locked up” in a nursing home. With the changes due to COVID-19, there is going to be a large number of people in the coming years who need long-term care but do not want to go into a nursing home.
In-home care, physician house calls, and certain medical deliveries to the elderly will become an increasingly popular demand.
A Shift in Who Provides Care
The pandemic put an enormous strain on emergency rooms and intensive care units. What this did was emphasize the importance of nurses, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners. This isn’t new to more rural areas and independent hospitals.
For independent practices and hospitals, they are able to provide quality care at a lower cost by relying on non-doctor practitioners, when allowed. In fact, if Congress and state medical boards allowed, approximately 70% of primary care could be handled by advanced nurses. However, what this means is that smaller hospitals could shut down as more authority is granted to skilled nurse training and a larger role for these providers in daily healthcare.
The shift leans towards more preventative and home care, and further away from hospitalizations and centralized healthcare.
Learn how Cartera Health’s comprehensive circle of care has been beneficial to the changing landscape of healthcare due to COVID-19.