By Dan Leibu, co-founder and chief operating officer, League.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare industry rapidly adopted new technologies and processes to improve care delivery and keep patients and staff safe. The adoption of telemedicine and digital front doors has allowed healthcare providers to continue delivering care to patients while minimizing the risk of spreading COVID-19 and making care more accessible to patients. Yet, the pandemic exposed gaps in our healthcare system, including the need for an underlying platform that connects all aspects of patients’ health journeys.
As we move into the endemic stage of COVID, with President Biden set to end all COVID-19 emergency declarations in May 2023, we have the chance to reflect on the successes and shortcomings of our national pandemic response and apply those lessons to make our healthcare system even more resilient and prepared for future pandemics and crises.
A platform approach to contact tracing
When the pandemic reached full force in Spring 2020, it generated a rush to implement solutions for contact tracing to stem the rapid spread of the virus. By December 2020, at least 74 countries had launched apps to automate and assist contact tracing. In the U.S., companies including Apple and Google rushed to provide aid by rolling out their own contact-tracing technology, but these solutions ultimately proved too disjointed and did not gain the necessary traction to be fully effective.
A platform approach to healthcare would allow for much more efficient and widespread contact tracing during the next pandemic. Healthcare platformization could facilitate the wide-spread implementation of a single, unified contract tracing solution that would provide a streamlined and accessible user experience.
Expanding care access
During spikes of the COVID-19 pandemic, overburdened providers, high patient loads, and limited hospital beds necessitated hospitals to triage care. Likewise, many patients avoided visiting hospitals and doctors’ offices to protect themselves or were turned away. A study by the Center for Disease Control found that by June 30, 2020, an estimated 41% of U.S. adults had delayed or avoided seeking medical care because of COVID-19, including emergency care (12%) and routine care (32%). Avoidance of emergency care was more prevalent among those with underlying medical conditions and disabilities, unpaid caregivers for adults, and Black and Hispanic adults, demonstrating the effect of social determinants of health on care access.
In addition to the obvious risks associated with delaying emergency care, persistent difficulty accessing routine and preventive care can lead to serious medical conditions going undiagnosed or unchecked. Many patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and autoimmune disorders were forced to manage their health at home.