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Technology’s role in healthcare quickly evolving amid COVID-19 pandemic

Telehealth, AI and real-time innovation are traversing new ways of work

April 14, 2020 | By: Devin Elliott

Clinician tends to a paitent while  wearing proper protective gear

Navigating the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. Our first and foremost priorities are ensuring we’re supporting our employees, consultants and clients across the globe. As a full-stack technology and talent partner, we want to share our experience and offer support in how to alleviate the uncertainty around business continuity as many organizations shift to a primarily remote workforce for a period of time.

Healthcare has been thrust into the global spotlight. In the past few weeks, this industry has been asked to proactively manage and react to the ever-evolving challenges of COVID-19. As we talk with our healthcare customers through this time, we’re seeing a few key trends in how plans and providers are leveraging technology to combat this pandemic while mobilizing to take action.

Telehealth and virtual triage

Many health systems are being overwhelmed with questions, requests and needs from concerned patients and citizens. Among government and public health directives for social distancing, practices and providers are quickly pivoting to telehealth as much as possible to meet and provide care to existing patients. With HIPAA-compliant virtual appointments, medical providers can provide real-time care to patients without requiring an in-office visit; online sessions require a smart phone, tablet or computer with a camera. As more providers turn to telehealth, strategy, operations support and platform adoption is being prioritized to make care seamless.

Moreover, the healthcare industry is looking to technology to automate and alleviate the burden on already strained resources. Whether that’s enhancing digital services or leveraging AI and chatbots, they’re looking for efficient and effective ways to quickly deliver answers to concerned citizens so healthcare providers can focus on patient care.

Adopting and supporting remote work personnel

As many industries and companies move to online work-from-home models, video-based technology is seeing rapid adoption. A lot of the nonclinical healthcare workforce is likely getting a fast introduction to a remote work environment. Maintaining operations and support for their essential colleagues and practitioners on the front lines is critical. Healthcare plans and providers are scaling and investing in the technology and infrastructure to sustain a large remote workforce—gaining network access, setting up VPN, responding to service desk tickets, implementing identity access management  and providing workers with the collaboration tools required to effectively perform their jobs from home. Growing pains are to be expected and responding to the needs of workers and technology postimplementation is paramount.

As an industry that hasn’t been the quickest to adopt new technologies, the more forward-thinking providers are noticeably ahead of the game, while other systems are taking quick action to accelerate implementation and adoption of tools and modern workplace practices.

Keeping pace with data demands

In a public health crisis, healthcare providers need to respond to government-mandated reporting. Now more than ever, they’re looking to leverage their electronic medical record systems and BI platforms, like Power BI and Tableau, for predictive modeling and assessing future threats to help them secure and allocate the equipment, staff and resources required. With reports being pulled on a near daily basis per CDC regulations (e.g., bed utilization, infection rates), data analytics platforms are essential to providing insight into the current and anticipated course of the pandemic.

Pivoting into the unknown

In terms of where we go from here? That’s yet to be known. Just last month, healthcare organizations were forging ahead with 2020 plans, entrenched in projects. Obviously, a lot is on hold as resources are reallocated to the area of most need—combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re seeing a push–pull dynamic as organizations figure out a new normal in very abnormal times. One thing is certain, there’s no right answer—healthcare is taking on COVID-19 on the front lines in addition to facing challenges—business continuity, organizational agility, resilience—that all organizations are dealing with right now. As the situation continues to evolve, it is likely that healthcare leaders will continue to look to technology for solutions.

Devin Elliott is a healthcare services account lead at TEKsystems. He partners with various healthcare payers, providers and technology organizations across the greater Philadelphia area to help with their business and IT challenges through a broad scope of technology consulting services—digital transformation, data analytics and insights and enterprise life cycle management.

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