COVID-19 has imposed considerable pressure on global society and enforced a variety of changes to how we work and live. But as the pandemic progresses, these pressures have flowed and ebbed, gradually becoming the new normal. Amid these changes, most people still expect that our old, familiar ways will eventually return, putting an end to all the unconventional changes we’ve made since 2020.
But we cannot deny the role of COVID-19 in accelerating existing trends, especially in the field of healthcare. The emergence of telehealth services has filled the gaps in treatment delivery, allowing people to receive care at home. Even senior care services are also evolving, which provided comprehensive resources to older adults to stay mentally and physically healthy during a health crisis.
The pandemic has caused a large impact on the healthcare system, accelerating hospital design and transformations needed to tackle the medical priorities of various communities. As we look forward to the post-pandemic era, we’re expecting these developments will become a more permanent part of the post-pandemic world. That said, here are the three trends facing the healthcare system after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Public access to telemedicine
For many years, patients and physicians have resisted the idea of virtual care. Doctors can’t provide urgent care and laboratory tests, and physical examinations were only limited to uploading photos and videos over the internet. But when COVID-19 happened, people learned to become flexible and resourceful to meet their medical needs.
Telemedicine has become a meaningful way to access healthcare services amid social distancing protocols. It also proved convenient to distant communities lacking access to specialized treatment, such as cardiology, obstetrics, and mental health.
As telehealth transitions from an optional form of care delivery to an immediate necessity, healthcare systems will likely scale up virtual care offerings. Despite its rapid adoption, time can only tell whether telehealth will be a staple component of healthcare delivery even after COVID-19 subsides.
While virtual care has solved the biggest concerns in health care, particularly access to care delivery, providers should be aware of its potential to widen gaps in receiving virtual care. While patients don’t have to commute, leave work, or secure childcare for doctor’s appointments, some don’t have access to a reliable internet connection. Thus, this shows technology can be a potential telehealth problem that authorities need to tackle to prevent the further widening of health disparity gaps.
Preference for digital channels
Alongside the rise of telehealth services, patients have a newfound preference for digital channels to obtain healthcare information and take charge of their health and wellness. Although healthcare providers have still underutilized these developments, patients have explored other innovations to supplement their treatment.
One example is wearable tech. Millions of people today have their own wearable watches to monitor their breathing, heart rate, blood oxygen, and fitness. Wearable tech has become fully ubiquitous in everyday life, making it easy to share health data with healthcare providers.
Social media has also become a critical source of health information across various age groups. Besides millennials, 90% of older adults over age 67 rely on social media for sharing and sourcing health information.
As patients become increasingly dependent on digital channels, it’s about time healthcare organizations and providers utilize these resources to reach more patients and provide care at a larger scope.
Convenience over loyalty
Consumer loyalty has been a primary profitability driver in healthcare systems. They prefer to receive care within the same healthcare organization, with the confidence that they can provide the service and treatment they need. Despite this fact, many organizations still struggle to maintain consumer loyalty, especially with consumer’s growing indifference towards brands.
In a report published by National Research Corporation, 36% of people have no particular preference for any healthcare brand, which increased by 5% in 2018.
The dwindling trends in consumer loyalty have further intensified during the pandemic. Patients have been jumping to other healthcare brands while others are planning to make the switch before the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
Despite these alarming figures, this brings good news to healthcare providers by finding ways to regain consumer trust. Consumers’ fondness for their providers has grown during the pandemic, and healthcare organizations should take this opportunity to meet client satisfaction. In this case, convenience, access, and speed will be the key factors in influencing consumer’s decision-making.
As challenging as the previous year has been, the pandemic has further highlighted the importance of providing a better patient experience and consumer-driven improvements in the healthcare system. The continued growth of health systems amid a pandemic has proven their flexibility despite these uncertain times. To capitalize on these developments, healthcare leaders should continue their initiatives in addressing challenges in healthcare access.