By Paul Brient, chief product officer, athenahealth.
To say that this has been a challenging year for healthcare providers would be a grave understatement. From the financial hardships that the state shutdowns brought, to the need to change traditional processes to create a COVID-19 safe environment, we have proven that while healthcare may be recession proof, it is not pandemic proof. Although we hope that the majority of these immediate challenges are behind us (or will be behind us once we have a widely distributed vaccine), the healthcare industry has gone through momentous changes in 2020 which will no doubt drive lasting transformation for years to come.
No matter the role healthcare providers play or their specialties, all providers have experienced some degree of change. Some of the biggest changes that we’ve experienced in 2020 — that will continue to drive trends in the coming year — include shifts toward value-based care (VBC) models, increased focus on whole-person health, and utilization of digital health tools.
Continued Emphasis on VBC and Whole-Person Care
One of the most unexpected observations that providers have had is that those with VBC financial arrangements saw better results than practices with exclusively traditional fee-for-service (FFS) models. In effect, having both VBC and FFS models provides business model diversification and protection against systemic volume declines. This isn’t something that was considered or talked about pre-pandemic.
VBC has been an accelerating force in the healthcare landscape the past few years and has made us rethink patients as consumers. We’ll continue to see practices want to differentiate themselves by moving to VBC models. Additionally, practices will shift away from the problem-focused approach and practice medicine with a much more holistic, patient-focused strategy. There will be advancement toward whole-person care models and new ways to care for patients outside of the encounter and proactively intervene.
The healthcare industry has acknowledged the impact that behavioral, social and human service needs have on an individual’s health — which is causing primary care providers to adopt new offerings around behavioral health. This starts with assessments and will grow into psychosocial support. Also expect that there will be an increased need for mental health support because of the isolation and reduced social connections to friends and family resulting from the pandemic.