Triumphs Within the Turmoil

Last week, I used this space to consider lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. While we have much work ahead of us, let’s acknowledge a few positive changes we’ve already made in response to the pandemic.

We’ve begun expanding virtual and home-based access to health care services, which increases participation for those who are medically or socially vulnerable, or who do not have ready access to providers. Remote access can also help preserve the patient-provider relationship at times when an in-person visit is not practical or possible. This continuity of care is indispensable in preventing or managing the chronic conditions that disproportionately affect minorities and the economically disadvantaged.

As we’ve had to adopt alternatives to tertiary care settings to prioritize treatment for COVID-19 patients, we increasingly embraced technology to provide higher-value care. Health systems can use digital technology, robotics and other tools to automate tasks such as insurance authorization, follow-up on unpaid bills and maintenance of medical records. This releases providers’ time from administrative work ― which accounts for a third of health care costs ― so they can focus on activities geared toward patient care and healing.

Additionally, integrating artificial intelligence and machine learning allows health care systems to provide data-driven clinical decision support to physicians and hospital staff so they can deliver better health care faster, and at a lower cost.

Health care systems around the world have faced several challenges amid this pandemic, but they are reacting with resilience and agility to quickly handle the patient surge, simultaneously ensuring the safety and wellbeing of their staff ― the true warriors. At the same time, they had to keep their operations viable and financially stable. The achieved all this by harnessing and analyzing huge amounts of patient data for faster clinical trials, focusing on outcomes research, reimagining patient care areas, fixing supply chain gaps and so much more. Some might be quick fixes ― but they have helped us to move to the next phase.

We need to rethink health care, and this crisis has taught us that we can make changes, quickly and strategically, to benefit the greater good.