A Post COVID-19 Era Has Telemedicine Playing A More Prominent Role

On the frontlines of healthcare’s battle against COVID-19, healthtech firms are playing their role in forging the industry’s new path. In a recent podcast, John Kravitz, CIO of Geisenger Health, remarked that he was “blown away” by how the tech industry has risen to the challenges created by the coronavirus crisis.

Within the Geisinger Health system, Kravtiz points to how his IT unit has managed to keep pace with a 500 percent increase in telehealth bookings and scaled up their remote workforce to double its size at 13,000 employees. Beyond that first barrage, the healthcare sector is continuously adapting and innovating as they face a new virus that moves in unpredictable ways. Many health systems turned to self-diagnosing tools that could help the public answer basic questions before requesting to speak with a doctor.

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For example, Washington state’s Providence Health optimized tools like their chatbot Grace to respond to user questions about COVID-19 FAQs and triage assessment. There were 70,000 patient logins and over a million messages to Grace within the first month of the outbreak. But the number of patients flagged for further screening still exceeded worker resources, so they were shuttled to a virtual waiting room. Providence deployed other healthcare staff to shore up available providers for virtual visits.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and at no time has telemedicine been more needed than now. The technology is enjoying a Renaissance as the number of coronavirus related consults has surged and governments put a reimbursement model into place to allow clinicians to get paid for patient consultations. It’s possible the pandemic could push telemedicine into the mainstream and change the way health is delivered in the future.

Another area that was growing at a steady rate before COVID-19 is remote patient monitoring and home monitoring. The recent movement restrictions created a captive audience – many in need of ongoing monitoring due to chronic conditions. There are also patients that are being assessed or are suspected of having COVID-19 waiting for results. Much like telemedicine, the pandemic may be the pressure point that makes remote monitoring a leading choice for managing a patient's illness from now on.

Many organizations are looking at their recent experiences and realizing they need to prioritize their digital transformation. They are accelerating their timetables for moving operations online as they see healthcare undergoing a significant shift in how healthcare is delivered. The other side of that coin will be a short-term uptick in cybersecurity risk as bad actors test vulnerabilities in already stressed systems. It’s expected that as agencies adjust to these new tech realities, gaps will be addressed.

A longer view of the current crisis shows that peoples and places are organizing themselves differently as collaboration tools show that business can be done, even under challenging circumstances. New ways of working are helping people be productive and effective even when their lives are severely impacted. Organizations can take these learnings and build them into a new understanding of how things can work in the future.