There is little doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly reshaped the delivery of care in the United States. We have seen health systems rapidly deploy technologies that previously lacked broad adoption, like virtual care and chat assistants, seemingly overnight. However, we have also seen consumers, hungry for information about COVID-19 and available healthcare resources, eagerly adopt these methods of accessing care.
While its effect has varied across different types of organizations, the coronavirus pandemic has had an extensive impact on all U.S. health systems. Even though many believe COVID-19 is “kinder” to children than adults, children’s hospitals have faced their own unique challenges, as parents and caregivers seek safe physical and mental health care for minors. To look at the impact of COVID-19 on these types of organizations, Kyruus held a virtual forum series last month featuring Seth Bokser, M.D., a Pediatric Hospitalist at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Benioff Children’s Hospital and Clinical Professor at the UCSF Department of Pediatrics; and Jennifer Magaziner, Senior Director of Strategy and Digital Innovation at Boston Children’s Hospital.
The digital front door is not a new concept in healthcare. Before COVID-19, many organizations were already investing in their digital properties to capture the attention of healthcare consumers. While most had patient portals and find-a-providers, some driving engagement beyond their site by using local listings, adoption for newer technologies, like mobile applications, virtual care, and online scheduling remained low.
COVID-19 has highlighted the need for better access to care, particularly to mental and behavioral health treatments, which are often under-funded, under-resourced, and inaccessible for many individuals. To shed light on the challenges that healthcare workers and the communities they serve are facing during this time and what organizations can do to help, Kyruus recently held a virtual forum on “Meeting Our Communities’ Mental Health Needs During and After COVID-19,” featuring Dr. Gary Gottlieb, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and former CEO of Partners in Health and Partners HealthCare; Dr. Chi Huang, Executive Medical Director of General Medicine and Hospital Medicine Shared Services at Wake Forest Baptist Health; and Dr. Mark Hyman Rapaport, Reunette Harris Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine and Chief of Psychiatric Services at Emory Healthcare.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need–and demand–for a more modern healthcare consumer experience that incorporates digital tools to drive easy, frictionless access to care. Though most health systems have laid groundwork for this new era of healthcare, the onset of COVID-19 has sped up the process exponentially. As website traffic has skyrocketed with consumers seeking information, assistance, and access online, digital technology has played a powerful role in helping health systems triage and route patients effectively.
Since the COVID-19 virus emerged in the U.S., the country’s health systems and hospitals have felt a significant strain on their resources and staff as they continue to face rising volumes of patients. Amid this chaos, many organizations have risen to the challenge, using technology to expand access and relieve some of the pressure on their limited resources. Here are some of the ways health systems are using technology to expand access to care during the pandemic: