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Next Stop, next normal article

It’s now clear that hybrid healthcare is here to stay. But it’s still evolving. Whatever the next normal looks like, all signs point to it being more patient-centric and technology-enabled.

McKinsey defines patient centricity as “a healthcare experience that is convenient, transparent, and personalized. Consumers expect to be treated as individuals with specific needs, not as problems to be solved.”1

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This echoes the current move to wellness-focused care. According to Deloitte, in the future health is likely to revolve around sustaining well-being rather than responding to illness.2 They believe:

  • Prevention and early diagnosis will play a starring role in the future of healthcare, delaying or even eliminating the onset of disease.
  • Sophisticated tests and tools could mean most diagnoses (and care) would happen at home.
  • In 20 years, cancer and diabetes might be defeated.

Consumerization comes to healthcare

A key factor driving changes in care delivery is patient demand, which has become distinctly consumer-like. In many other parts of daily life, patients are used to having information available 24/7 through digital channels, and they now expect this from their healthcare providers.

For example, more than 60% of consumers expect to be able to go online to change or schedule a healthcare appointment, check medical records and test results, and renew a medication.3

Aaron Miri, SVP and Chief Digital Officer at Baptist Health, believes the more flexibility the better to deliver what patients are asking for. “At Baptist Health, we’re constructing a multimodal care model,” he says, “where you can literally have omnichannel care, meaning care anywhere.”

This should include “…at home, in your office, in the car, or when you walk up at a physical location,” Miri says. “So for us, it’s engagement where the patient wants it, when the patient wants it, and more importantly, how the patient wants it.”

Meeting expectations like this has positive results for both patient experience and economics. For example, automatic appointment reminders can reduce delayed or missed care — improving outcomes while reducing the productivity loss of unexpected gaps in appointments.

McKinsey reports that the financial case for patient-centric models is clear. Satisfied patients who use patient-centric models have 36% fewer visits, are 28% less likely to switch providers, and are five to six times more likely to use other services from the same provider.3

Virtual care on the rise

While the original impetus for patient-centricity — including the increased availability of virtual care options — was to enhance convenience and access, McKinsey believes with further telehealth innovation, the promise of better outcomes and cost savings can be realized.

This is especially true for virtual models in acute care, particularly when they include remote patient monitoring (RPM) and hospital-at-home programs.1

RPM is a key component of home-based care, commonly used in chronic condition management but also increasingly for primary care and the ongoing wellness focus. Organizations are evaluating the unique needs of RPM and its place in virtual care.

Dr. Dirk Stanley, UConn Health Chief Medical Information Officer, says, “There is a need to plan [RPM] workflows to enable the healthcare system to deliver interventions when needed — figuring out how to sort the signal from the noise, how to act on signals, and how long it takes to act on signals. Those are the types of things we want to think about going forward.”

“I think it’s a very exciting opportunity coming in the next five to 10 years,” Stanley says. “There’s a lot of thought being put into it and a lot of design. All of this requires time and analysis, and I’m excited that people are doing it. It’s happening.”

The technology-enabled next normal

As healthcare IT evolves, it delivers big benefits to patients and providers, allowing care delivery to be:

  • More virtualized through advances in electronic medical records and telehealth capabilities
  • More personalized as analytics and insights deliver the right messages to the right patients at the right time
  • More efficient with data integration in workflows across the patient journey, cutting down the time clinicians spend searching for and updating patient information

Where is virtual care headed?

As Virtual care services are extending beyond urgent care to more patient profiles and different types of care. McKinsey estimates about $250 billion in outpatient spending could shift to virtual settings.4 Rapidly growing, emerging home care segments include infusions, dialysis, and hospital-at-home — areas that are more complex and technology-enabled than traditional post-acute home health.1 IT evolves, it delivers big benefits to patients and providers, allowing care delivery to be:

In the next normal, the convergence of automated, virtual, and home-based care can lengthen the time between clinical touchpoints as digital data tracking and alerting tools help patients prevent acute episodes.

Now that they have more experience and a better understanding of the benefits and appropriate payment models, this move is further supported by growing payer acceptance of virtual-first providers.

How does the move to virtual care affect the healthcare industry?

INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Katherine A. Mansalis, sees a significant effect on patient retention and competition.

“We need to think about how the expansion of virtual care changes the competitive landscape for healthcare delivery organizations,” she says. “We’ve of course seen unprecedented levels of consolidation and partnerships across the healthcare industrial complex over the last several years. But I would say we now have to consider that we are not just competing regionally for patients.

“Now patients are able to be seen by any physician, any healthcare delivery organization across the country,” Mansalis says. “This really ups the game.”

Twenty years on

“The future of health that we envision is only about 20 years away, but health in 2040 will be a world apart from what we have now,” says Deloitte. “We can be reasonably certain that digital transformation… will drive much of this change.”

And Deloitte believes care will be “organized around the consumer, rather than around the institutions that drive our existing healthcare system.”2