The spread of COVID-19 has turned the U.S. healthcare industry upside down, and healthcare executives and professionals are having to relearn how to care for patients in the midst of a pandemic. The loss of life and peace of mind are sobering. I also believe that the way we deliver care during the coronavirus can provide healthcare leaders with an opportunity to re-imagine how we care for our patients in a post-pandemic world.
Telehealth. Numerous articles have been written over the past several weeks about this crisis being the tipping point for widespread adoption of virtual care (see Resources section at the bottom of this article). It is true that many people who would never have considered meeting with their physician remotely are currently doing so out of necessity. With technology such as digital thermometers and blood pressure cuffs, patients’ data can be sent directly to their physician, allowing them to avoid spreading a virus to other patients. Furthermore, it lowers costs to providers and patients alike.
There are, of course, trickle-down effects if doctors continue telehealth practices. What changes will be required in billing and coding? What happens to the jobs of front-desk receptionists? How will insurance companies respond? What does this mean for lab work? Despite these questions, patients’ exposure to a different way to receiving care might open them up to telehealth options and create a demand for these services, even after the threat of the coronavirus is over.
Redefinition of “elective surgery.” At most hospitals across the country, elective surgeries have been postponed indefinitely. While it is wise to delay a surgery that is not crucial to a patient’s health during a widespread virus, what if a patient is in pain, such as those awaiting hip or knee replacements, which are considered elective surgeries? Just because a procedure is not emergent, doesn’t mean it isn’t urgent.