Will COVID-19 Bring us to the Future of Health Sooner Than We Expected? | Deloitte US has been saved
by Steve Burrill, vice chairman, US Health Care Leader, Deloitte LLP
We are all keeping up on the news and are all painfully aware of the number of people, locally and around the world, who have been infected with COVID-19. We have seen images on TV of exhausted nurses, physicians, and other first-responders as they try to care for a crush of severely ill patients at hotspot hospitals. We continue to hear concerns about shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators. This crisis is very real.
During a Dbriefs webcast on May 12, I talked about some of the things we haven’t seen on TV. We haven’t seen the thousands of hospitals in the US that have become virtual ghost towns. We haven’t seen how volume has completely disappeared for many hospitals and other acute care facilities. We haven’t heard much about the health care jobs that have been impacted. Health care jobs have typically remained stable during past economic downturns. That isn’t the case this time around. The health care sector shed 1.4 million jobs in April.1
Many of our health care clients are still in the respond phase of the pandemic. They are responding to infected patients while others are responding to a growing financial crisis as their facilities remain largely vacant. For them, the recovery phase is still on the horizon.
The dynamic for our health plan clients is completely different. More than 40 million people in the US have filed for unemployment benefits, and many of them have also lost their employer-sponsored health coverage. Most health plans are experiencing significant enrollment shifts as members transition from employer-sponsored insurance to COBRA, Medicaid, or subsidized coverage sold on the public insurance exchanges, as my colleagues Jim Whisler and David Biel noted in a recent blog. Health plans are also anticipating a bump in services as the sector moves from the respond phase to the recovery phase. How the growing backlog of deferred medical services is addressed—combined with changes in health coverage—will likely be complex.
Four key areas that COVID-19 will likely change
COVID-19 has accelerated where we saw health care moving over the next 20 years. Our perception of progress tends to be linear, but the reality of change is exponential, and it is occurring faster than anyone could have predicted. The future of health will likely focus on wellness, prevention, and the efficient management of chronic disease. I don’t know if the future has moved ahead by five years or 10 years, but we are already seeing glimmers of a future that we thought was much further out. Here are four areas that I expect will shorten the path to the future of health:
This month, the Center for Health Solutions will publish new research that looks at how clinical leaders intend to ramp up non-urgent procedures again. Once our health systems begin to see light at the end of the tunnel, it might be time to start capitalizing on some of the areas I outline above—brush off the strategy and financial documents and begin accelerating toward the future of health.
1. Healthcare loses 1.4 million jobs in April as unemployment rate hits 14.7, Modern Healthcare, May 8, 2020
2. Not sick enough for the hospital? There’s a COVID-19 app for that, TwinCities Pioneer Press, May 5, 2020