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The relevance of digital healthcare during and after pandemic!

The relevance of digital healthcare during and after pandemic
Unmesh Srivastava, CTO, P3 Health Partners


The onset and spread of the novel COVID-19 virus have taken a disastrous toll on the US economy. According to a Statista report published on July 2, 2020, the number of positive cases of the COVID-19 disease reported in the USA reached 2,679,230, with 128,024 deaths reported. This uncertainty is leading to new lows on the stock markets. With the pandemic still on the rise, the US economy needs to gear up to mitigate large scale economic damages.

Impact on Work Culture
Within a month of the deadly outbreak, 17 million Americans had already filed for unemployment benefits. The rise in unemployment in the US due to COVID-19 pandemic is far greater than the unemployment experienced during the Great Recession. In hindsight, the COVID-19 induced recession has fueled life into the virtual working culture. Remote work is redefining operations in the global workspace, including America.

Perks of Remote Work Culture
Technologies that promote the remote work culture have been a boon in the time of this pandemic. Working remotely means more time to spend with family and less time to commute for work. Remote work, culture comes with a more proportioned work-life balance that, in turn, enhances employees’ productivity. However, still, there are times when employees become anxious working from their homes, and there is a need for leadership teams at the workplace to address by providing appropriate mental and behavioral support.

Impact on Healthcare
The pandemic brought the need for a strategic framework that can mitigate uncertainty and foster a resilient healthcare ecosystem for Americans. How is Healthcare Data Management and analytics impacting COVID-19? Population health data combined with advanced data analytics can be valuable solutions for managing current global disruptions. Risk bearing entities and payors are leveraging technologies like historical data on chronic diagnosis, medication regimen, vitals, ER visits, lab results, and prescriptions to identify the overall medical risk associated with the individuals. This is of unique value to practitioners in managing their patients.

Contact Tracing and resource optimization
Geospatial data is used to identify the places where a COVID patient has traveled through contact tracing. Contact tracing uses phone usage data with geo-location information to estimate an individual’s contact network pattern in the near past. Through efficient use of data management filters and a time-sensitive approach, officials identify, quarantine, and test everyone who may have come in the vicinity of an infected person. 

Authorities can also estimate the potential need for medical resources in a geographical area before it surfaces. This is done through data access and advanced data analytics using machine learning. Thus, data management and analytics is an integral component of healthcare resource optimization.

Impact on Chronic Disease Patients
Chronically ill patients thrive with ongoing disease management to steer off high-acuity health episodes. Ongoing disease management saves patients, providers, and even payers from the high cost of high acuity encounters. Chronic illness management relies on effective patient engagement, with frequent low-acuity check-ins with care providers.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) advised hospitals to defer all elective procedures or surgeries to the advent of the coronavirus pandemic. The move is believed to foster adherence to social distancing protocol as well as freeing up space in medical facilities. However, technologies like mobile apps and wearables have helped chronically ill patients in disease management.

Impact on Elder Population
In April 2020, the World Health Organization ( WHO) reported that more than 95% of COVID-19 deaths were among people over 60 years old. A large chunk of the elderly population suffers from underlying conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or respiratory illness that spike the risk of severe COVID-19. Moreover, the pandemic’s deadly impact on individuals with weak immunity puts the elderly at a magnified risk of being infected.

How is Technology Helping Manage COVID-19?
The novel coronavirus COVID-19 has brought along societal changes of seemingly permanent nature. It has revamped the way individuals access healthcare and the way it is initiated towards patients. Data from GPS analysis of people’s movement helps to provide a view of the population’s compliance with social-distancing mandates.

The unprecedented surge in need for healthcare resources has put the existing healthcare network under extreme stress. As discussed earlier, even chronically ill patients find it difficult to access ongoing treatments. The efficient deployment of remote patient care and monitoring allows optimal chronic disease management in the light of social distancing norms. Virtual care offers a more decentralized recluse to treat patients in a personalized way.

Wearable technology powered with sophisticated sensors, advanced algorithms, and artificial intelligence (AI) aids remote patient health monitoring. This presents a unique opportunity for deploying technology at the point of care. Right from rings, wristbands, earpieces to patches, wearable devices nail continuous remote monitoring in a free-flowing manner.

These wearable devices track vital biometric signals, such as heart rate, blood-oxygen levels (SpO2), and body temperature, to detect different types of diseases. Healthcare technology companies are integrating the wearables into the healthcare provider’s EMR systems. This helps healthcare professionals in keeping tabs on their patients, albeit remotely. A wearable medical device can alert healthcare providers when a chronically ill patient needs to go to the hospital.

With the sudden need for patient care due to coronavirus infection, the medical education sector has also seen massive disruption. It also brought to surface the need to prepare future physicians for a post- COVID world.

Healthcare learning management challenges include practical and logistical limitations like concerns for patient and clinician safety. Learning management today has transitioned into a completely online format. Most institutions allow small groups to convene online in virtual team settings.

COVID-19 is the beginning of a new reality; that is a mix of complexity, uncertainty, and opportunities. The US healthcare system needs to arrange for a rapid response network to manage the evolving challenges of COVID-19 proactively.

Unmesh Srivastava

Unmesh Srivastava

He is the CTO of P3 Health Partners, where he is building a digitally enabled risk-bearing care delivery system that provides a differentiated provider and patient experience with lower costs and superior quality of care. Prior to joining P3, he has worked with multiple innovative healthcare organizations like UHG, Optum, and Kaiser Permanente building and deploying the next generation of healthcare. He has led digital transformation initiatives in areas of value-based care for risk-bearing entities and payors, primary care and specialty providers, labs, pharmacy, and hospital operations. He is passionate about utilizing technology to transform the way healthcare is delivered.