The New Normal of Health Care in 2021

eAwaz Youth Zone

The continued disruption of the COVID-19 Pandemic has commanded health care professionals and boards to adapt their traditional operating models

By Mahd Malik, 16-year-old

Dubai –  With the Corona Virus’ detrimental effects hospital and health care system boards have shifted their customary governance models and try to adjust by focusing on preparing for 2021 by introducing different strategies that will improve patient access to health care professionals and treatment. The following study will explore the different ways in which health care will be changing for the better as hospitals operate through the pandemic.

Virtual Care

As there is a continued disruption to past norms, as patients, we will continue to see the introduction and management of Virtual Care crosswise in health care. The emergence of telehealth, which is the use of technology such as your laptops, phones to access health care providers during quarantine and when in remote locations to track and manage your health, has allowed patients to access the same patient prominence as one would expect at the hospital with various medical parties monitoring their wellness frequently. It was estimated that as of 2020, 260+ telehealth companies were operating, of which most of them connected patients in remote locations to their doctors during the pandemic. Even so, in February 2020, less than 1 percent of Medicare primary care visits were conducted via telehealth; by April, driven by the pandemic, the volume had risen to 43 percent. This growth appears to have staying power as both patients and physicians adopt a new virtualization mindset. It will be necessary for organizations to align their virtual strategy with the changing needs of their markets, growth strategy, and evolving payment models. This isn’t a silver bullet but instead a natural progression to support providers and patients more meaningful: Virtual needs become the way organizations work versus a separate component of the strategy.

Introduction of Artificial Intelligence and Automation in Health Care

Health Care Artificial Intelligence (the use of machine-learning algorithms and software, which mimics human cognition in the analysis and of complex medical and health care data) and automation (the use of automation in the form of control systems and advanced technology to eliminate the need for manual tasks) have taken hold of health care at an accelerated rate in the past few years and are burgeoning industries just waiting to be introduced. Patients can expect such advancements like the ones below soon.

  • The Enhancements in Radiology

Artificial Intelligence has had a remarkable impact in radiology, solutions to reduce redundant tasks have been introduced along with the eliminations of reading errors that would identify data patterns in images to predict the risk of an operation of a patient, the improvement of the workflow processes in hospitals has also improved for example, a GE Healthcare partnership with Intel aims to enhance the patient care and limit costs for the hospitals and health systems using more expensive methods like digital imaging. Together, technology companies and health care boards have come together to offer solutions that will formulate more complete hospital efficiency through an increase in their assets’ performance, a reduce in patient risk, and medicine dosage exposure which will compound into faster image processing – and expedited time to diagnosis and treatment patient

  • Real-time analytics to expedite care

Large organizations are harnessing real-time information to drive the care process. Command center software platforms, for example, combine systems engineering, predictive analytics, and problem-solving to manage patient flow in and through the health system while aiming to preserve clinical quality, safety, and the patient experience. In addition, the development of next-generation applications to support caregivers is continuing to drive breakthrough performance in both a centralized and decentralized manner.

Personalization of Care

While patients want the convenience and ease of digital interactions, personalized care is still the touchstone of their loyalty. According to a 2020 survey of health care consumers, an “ideal” health care experience requires a personal touch, whether that encounter occurs virtually or in person. Patients say it’s paramount that clinicians take time to listen, show they care and communicate clearly. For improvement efforts to have teeth, they must be associated with programs that drive measurable 7outcomes. For example, a major academic medical center created a communication training program to teach doctors best practices in patient interactions. Within a year, the percentage of patients who “always” felt that the doctors listened, treated them with respect and explained things well rose by 9 points.

More Strategic and Agile Supply Chains

Successful supply chains are becoming a key differentiator and vital part of the care delivery process in ways we have never seen before in health care. However, getting it right requires strategic systems thinking around all functions in the organization. Among the topics for boards to consider:

  • Increasing storage and self-distribution

What’s old is new again. We see a trend toward more self-distribution models instead of just-in-time delivery from distributors. This allows organizations to buy in bulk, control distribution, and minimize their reliance on items at risk of being depleted. Of course, organizations do not have a limitless supply of capital, so this is not a one-size-fits-all procurement strategy, but it may make sense for certain items in the supply chain.

  • Deeper relationships and backup suppliers

The value of vendor-of-choice relationships became apparent as many hospitals scrambled for pandemic-related supplies. The key is striking a strategic balance between price, performance, and trust. Getting the lowest price but lacking a relationship that cannot be “prioritized” in a crisis is not ideal. However, neither is the overreliance on one vendor without having plans B, C, and D in place. As a result, we see many organizations developing connections with tiers of backup suppliers — often smaller and geographically closer than their primary vendors — to gain flexibility, speed, and as much certainty as possible that critical items will be on hand when needed.

  • New supply chain models for new care settings

Health care futurists believe that by 2040, most care will be delivered at home, in outpatient settings, or virtually. Adapting to this new way of care — in terms of supplies and delivery methods — will require relationships with different vendors, such as retailers, contract employees, and technology providers. This is an exciting but huge challenge: how to reimagine supply chains to deliver non-hospital-based care in a safe, cost-effective, and high-quality way at scale.

  • Smarter, faster, predictive information 

Expect to see more automation software and artificial intelligence (AI) in health care supply chains. In addition to freeing personnel from repetitive tasks, these technologies can assist decision-makers in identifying trends and providing resources to workers. For example, predictive analytics focused on population health within an organization or system could alert managers to trending disease states and their associated supply needs. In addition, supply chain managers could use AI tools to master the new transportation logistics of getting supplies to widely dispersed home care settings and so on.

  • Workforce Diversity and Safety

It will continue to be a challenge for providers to find the next generation of leaders to replace baby boomer executives retiring at a high rate. Other top issues include:

  • Inclusion and diversity

The momentum around improving inclusion and diversity within health care teams is encouraging. There is strong evidence that diverse groups and inclusive cultures drive better outcomes (especially among diverse patient populations), more effective problem-solving, greater engagement, and higher employee retention.

Large organizations use their scale to invest in IT tools and programs that give employees greater flexibility to work remotely. The virtualization and gig economy have already begun and will fully effect health care over the next several years.

  • Physical and mental health. 

COVID-19 amplified the issue of employee safety as organizations redesigned care delivery spaces and protocols on the fly to protect health care workers and patients. These efforts will broaden as health systems ramp up testing of patients and employees, remote working, and virtual care services. In addition, organizations need to keep a pulse on staff burnout, continually looking for ways to make their jobs more sustainable and expanding access to mental health services. 

And with that being said, it seems that individuals across the globe can expect significant but straightforward healthcare changes to expedite recovery.