By Ryan Van Wert, MD, CEO and founder, Vynca.
As a physician entrepreneur with a background in critical care, I view the COVID-19 pandemic from a unique perspective. COVID-19 has compelled the healthcare industry to evaluate areas that are successful and those that must be altered to improve care delivery for both clinicians and consumers. This time of contemplation is an opportunity to move healthcare forward for the benefit of everyone.
In addition to providing many lessons for the healthcare industry, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed some particularly vulnerable areas, revealing five valuable teachings.
Five Insights from the Pandemic
- The need for more palliative care providers: The pandemic brought to light the shortage of palliative care providers in America. Some hospitals reacted to the abrupt wave of patients by staffing palliative care physicians in the ED. These hospitals leveraged the experience of palliative care physicians to engage patients in goals-of-care discussions, enabling their patients to have increased access to goal-concordant care. Others offered further palliative care support through telehealth to bridge the gap between onsite clinician resources and demand. Palliative care will continue to be in high demand throughout the pandemic and moving forward, and there must be a considerable effort to encourage more providers to join the specialty.
- A stronger emphasis on end-of-life care planning: COVID-19 has illustrated the importance of proactively initiating end-of-life conversations with patients and their loved ones to achieve patient-centric value-based care. It is also critical for these wishes to be documented in a clear and easily accessible manner, as the traditional way of completing advance care planning documents with pen and paper is no longer sufficient. Hospitals and health systems need to integrate digital advance care planning documentation into their EHR systems to ensure that these documents are available to all clinicians, patients and their selected caregivers when they are needed.
- The fragile state of fee-for-service revenue: Many health systems still depend on procedures, imaging and infusions to account for a significant amount of their top-line revenue. While this pandemic is a particularly acute case, it has revealed the fragility of these revenue streams. Risks to an organization’s fee-for-service revenue, such as competition in the market, losing a physician specialty group and more, always exist. There is hope that the exposure of this fragility will drive further engagement in value-based initiatives – at the very least to help prevent disruptions of fee-for-service revenue in the future, but in the end, because these reimbursement models can provide higher quality care at lower costs.
- The importance of prioritizing public health: Much more could have been done to prepare for COVID-19, in terms of preemptive and continuing investments in public health. Moving forward, the connected global community must prioritize preparation, so we can successfully respond to future public health emergencies.
- Greater investment in supply chain infrastructure: COVID-19 has uncovered deficiencies in the U.S. healthcare supply chain. Though some health system executives tried to say the concept of just-in-time supply chain is not effective in healthcare, the truth is just-in-time supply chains can be effective during unexpected incidents. To be successful, they need significant planning and investment in supply chain infrastructure, and COVID-19 exposed some of these preparation shortcomings.
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