The Virtual Market Demands of COVID-19

Healthcare is always changing. From the introduction of new methods of care to changes in how care is delivered to refreshed and revitalized avenues for reimbursement, the industry is ever in flux and ever expanding.

Sometimes, however, industry changes are accelerated by uncontrollable factors, like the introduction of new viruses, diseases, and new disease vectors. SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, is one such virus. Infections with the novel coronavirus accelerated at a rapid pace globally in early 2020, before being declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) in mid-March. 

With the introduction of COVID-19 came new care expectations from patients, families, and providers, even as the industry was still shifting from emerging market demands pre-pandemic.

How do these two sets of expectations compare and how can technology help providers answer the call and rise to the challenge? Let’s take a look.

Pre-pandemic: New market demands

The world is moving online. Today’s patients and families are digital natives, expecting connectivity 24/7. Families even choose providers based on the availability of digital tools across full episodes of care.

And why not? This is what they’re used to. After all, we’re living in a connected world, one where 93% of millennials own a smartphone. Why wouldn’t they want that convenience to spill over into their care?

The numbers bear it out: 51% of consumers say convenience and access to care are important factors in their healthcare decision-making. It’s so important, in fact, that 70% of millennials would choose a primary care physician (PCP) or their child’s PCP who offered a mobile app over one who did not.

Patients were moving online. But was the industry? Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth was not as widely adopted as it is today. But even then, 74% of consumers report they were highly satisfied with telehealth experience. Organizations who were willing to get on board with digital health technology could see a benefit.

Then came COVID-19.

COVID-19: New care expectations

With the pandemic status of COVID-19, there was an overnight explosion in virtual care. What had previously been a mere convenience suddenly became many people’s only point of access to observation and treatment. 

With COVID-19 as a catalyst, usage of these technologies has grown rapidly. More than one billion virtual visits are expected in 2020, with 50% of health systems adding remote patient monitoring within 12-24 months. 

Since the onset of the pandemic, patient satisfaction with digital health technologies has also grown, with 77% of those who have tried telehealth visits now reporting a high level of satisfaction.

Finally, organizations are looking towards the future; and in many instances, the funding is there to support it. In fact, in April, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) even passed $20M in COVID-19 funding for pediatric and maternal care telehealth programs.

The bottom line

Healthcare organizations can respond to virtual market demands by listening first and foremost to the needs of their patients.

At HIT Consultant, Christina Perkins writes that in times of crisis, healthcare can change and add value in three ways:

  1. Creating administrative efficiency
  2. Streamlining exchange of information
  3. Increasing Value-Based Care

Keep these principles in mind, and don’t disregard the value of digital connectivity — as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, what patients and families desire in times of health can be doubly important during national and international periods of illness. 

By having digital health technology already in place, you’ll be that much further ahead of the curve, able to protect your organization and your patients simultaneously in times of elective procedure shutdowns and rapidly spreading disease.