By Dr. Florian Otto, co-founder and CEO, Cedar.
When the COVID-19 pandemic first came into the country and hit hospitals like a tidal wave, we saw a rapid shift to digital care. More than half of consumers say their providers now offer virtual care. And use of digital tools like telemedicine increased by 50% during the first quarter of 2020, compared with the same period in 2019. These stats are a sign that providers must work to truly understand the importance of digital-forward engagement strategies when it comes to building strong patient relationships.
Although recent vaccine approvals have brought some much-needed good news, the U.S is currently reckoning with the deadliest wave of the pandemic. This means that in addition to a continued public health crisis, patients and providers alike will still be faced with significant economic hardship as we enter 2021 – intensifying the need to improve the healthcare financial experience.
How can this be done? Here are three trends that I see coming to fruition as we continue fighting this pandemic in 2021:
2021: The Year of Smarter Heath-Tech Adoptions
The economic hardship brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has affected both the patient and provider. With the highest unemployment rates since the Great Depression this year, patients are feeling more cost-conscious about care decisions than ever. According to our recent consumer survey, 84% of respondents are worried about paying their healthcare costs in the next year.
What do you do when you’re on a budget? You shop around for the best price. Patients were already increasingly expecting healthcare to mirror their experiences with e-commerce and shopping before the pandemic. The financial strain caused by COVID-19 simply exacerbated this shift, lighting a fire under providers to adopt smart technologies that can consolidate patient information and “consumerize” the experience. Cohesive, consolidated and consumer-centric digital access points for all patient interactions have become the norm, and providers will need to adapt to meet these expectations.
As for providers themselves, pandemic-related shutdowns and stay-at-home orders caused financial strain for these organizations, with millions of elective procedures cancelled. This alone resulted in an estimated loss of $16.3 to $17.7 billion per month in reimbursement and $4 to $5.4 billion per month in net income for health systems.
In response to this financial strain, providers will increasingly look to invest strategically in tools that support their business goals and help them gain a competitive edge. Over half of consumers have delayed care due to fear of catching COVID-19, so getting patients back in the “door” – whether it is physically or virtually – will be crucial. Think about it from the point of view of ap patient – wouldn’t it make a difference to you if your doctor had the option of filling out paperwork and insurance information online, as opposed to waiting in a crowded waiting room?