Healthcare Industry Trends

Healthcare Industry Trends and Challenges in 2021

The healthcare industry was dominated by the pandemic last year, to the point that people suffering from other conditions were essentially pushed aside. This year comes the fallout, with patients who are in worse shape than they otherwise would be due to delays in diagnosis and treatment. Additionally, one-third of Americans are suffering from anxiety and depression. The past cannot be changed, but it can provide a road map for the future, and medical professionals want to create a more resilient system for handling the unexpected. One benefit of difficult times is that they expose weaknesses and inspire innovation. This year, there are trends underway that could improve health care in the future. Among those is the increased outsourcing of specific tasks that are not directly related to hands-on patient care, and examples will be provided where they are applicable. Like many other industries, health care faces a re-examination of its supply chain. According to American Hospital Association Trustee Services, enacting a new governance model is a crucial step, one that increasingly considers that hospitals and clinics are in the business of providing patient care, with all that this entails from issues such as costs and revenue, competition vs. cooperation, and the continued acceleration of digital tools. Following is an overview of the critical areas in which changes are likely to impact the healthcare system network this year and beyond.

Overall Collaboration

Due to specialization, the health care industry puts a unique twist on diversity. The more information that is shared among medical professionals from various fields, the more informed the profession becomes as a whole, and the more likely it is that patient outcomes will improve. There are multiple treatments and medications that were originally designed to address one condition and were later found to be effective for another. COVID-19 exposed vulnerability at the systemic level, including safety, equipment, data availability, and infrastructure. It became apparent very early that “going it alone” in terms of depending solely on an organization’s internal supply lines and capabilities would not be effective. That led to ad hoc collaborations among providers, suppliers, and non-health-care companies, with each providing overlapping abilities to deliver needed resources and capacity. Going forward, successful organizations will need to build upon these synergies, find ways to close gaps, and innovate with partners that bring unique skills for solving problems.

Supply chain issues

The pandemic exposed serious flaws in logistics, starting with the struggle to maintain adequate stocks of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). A strategic national supply initiative was formed during the Bush Administration in 2005 as part of a pandemic preparedness plan, but it was overshadowed by issues that were deemed to be more pressing. With the past once more acting as prologue, the importance of stocking up on supplies, rethinking distribution plans, and having a backup strategy is on the front burner again. A strategic and agile supply chain is necessary during normal times; in emergencies, it can spell the difference between timely response and disaster.

Predictive analysis helps avoid shortages

In a data-driven world, there are few excuses for the inability to anticipate potential situations. For most industries, predictive analytics is a strategic tool for preventing shortages of vital materials or facilitating responses to changing market demands. But the tool depends on the data that can inform action and taking “what if?” scenarios seriously. We saw the results of not adopting that mindset, and looking ahead, considerations must include PPE, routine and emergency supplies, and additional temporary space for patients. The initial two weeks to “flatten the curve” and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed turned into months, with the unfortunate outcome of adversely affecting people who had conditions other than the virus. One potential insurance policy against shortages is developing relationships with multiple suppliers. Relying on a sole source, especially for critical needs material, is not an ideal strategy and it has side effects. For example, the CDC’s initial guidance regarding masks was aimed at preserving limited supplies of hospital-use equipment for medical personnel. It came in a time of great uncertainty when consumers were stripping store shelves clean of items like hand sanitizer and toilet paper.

Turning rivalries into coalitions can keep supplies flowing – and support better service

A positive result of the pandemic is the creation of non-conventional partnerships. Retail businesses, medical centers, other entities which formerly saw each other as rivals joined together to pool resources and share access to vital supplies, supporting each other toward a common goal. This attitude should last, as it can be mutually beneficial no matter the conditions. Hospitals are cooperating to create a measure of overlap in the services each provides in order to reach a broader range of patients. Consolidation of services helps with costs and supports better patient care. This trend began some years ago for reasons that were based more on economics than anything else and this approach will likely become more common in the future. Healthcare

Patient Services

Efficiency

As we have already covered, the pandemic pushed routine checkups, non-essential services, and tests aside. That created a vacuum that is now being filled, often with patients whose need for care is even more pronounced because their conditions became more severe due to neglect. As the system plays catchup, there is an emphasis on paying attention to service delivery and focusing on the most efficient ways of providing treatment in a timely manner. This means multiple techniques that widen the funnel so more people can be scheduled for tests and treatment while maintaining bedside manner and providing focused attention to individual needs. On the back end, more patients mean that more claims will be filed. This is an operational area that can be outsourced to a partner who is familiar with medical coding and processing insurance, creating a situation that enhances operational efficiency while reducing labor costs.

Personalization

This is something that impacts all customer-facing industries and patients are consumers of medical services. Clinics are increasingly surveying their patients to measure satisfaction with provider interaction. This practice and others encourage doctors to see patients as customers and to respect them as individuals. No matter the product or service, people tend to put a higher value on personalized, caring experiences.

Virtual services expand opportunities

Virtual HealthcareRather than being options for times when in-person visits are impossible or inadvisable, virtual visits or telemedicine allow for more frequent appointments and more efficient services. In addition, there is a convenience factor that benefits both patient and provider, where the schedules of each can be more readily accommodated. This, too, creates opportunities for outsourcing because wherever there is technology, there is a concurrent need for qualified IT support teams. Add to that a higher rate of usage – more people using more technology more often invariably leads to a higher demand for service.

Changing Workforces

An integrated, inclusive workforce

Again, this has more to do with crosstalk and cooperation among specialists than with demographics and is a means of treating the whole patient instead of specific body parts. The sharing of information invariably leads to improved service models, better outcomes, and higher user satisfaction. Providers and health care workers collaborate on care plans, which directly ties back to the previous point about personalization.

Remote work options

Telehealth expansion makes remote work possible for care providers. Support personnel whose roles do not include direct patient care will almost certainly clock in more time from home offices. This trend was already happening before the pandemic; the virus simply put it into overdrive as people discovered that working is not always contingent on location. This is especially true for functions like scheduling and billing, which rely on electronic data transfer as it is.

Actions to help staff deal with stress and lifestyle issues

Care for the caregivers is seldom talked about, but that changed during the pandemic with front-line professionals spending so much time in the spotlight. These individuals, just like their patients, have lives and responsibilities away from work, and COVID-19 provided a unique learning experience. Because of restrictions on movement, providers often had to replace family members who were not allowed on-site. They offered emotional support to quarantined patients who were cut off from relatives. In the worst scenarios, they guided terminal patients through their last days of life. This combination exacerbated the mental stress that is already inherent to medicine, calling attention to the difficulties of working unpredictable hours under tough conditions. Work-life balance and supportive methods for stress relief must be provided for medical support staff members.

AI and Automation

Technology is part and parcel of any industry, including the expanding role of artificial intelligence, and health care is no exception to this. Automation is beneficial in providing:

Quality and efficiency of diagnostic services

Imaging services that utilize edge and cloud technology can enhance care while also reducing costs since there is no need to purchase dedicated software for these processes. Redundant tasks and human errors in the interpretation of images can be eliminated, further saving money but, more importantly, reducing patient risk. Alternatively, some of these tasks can be outsourced.

Expedited care through real-time analytics

Command center software platforms combine various factors of operations to manage patient flow through health care systems. These systems improve quality, safety, and the patient experience. Breakthroughs continue in the development of applications that support this process. The issue here is, who will sift through the data to look for trends and then convert findings into actionable insight? Once more, outsourcing comes to mind; data mining and analysis is a world in which third-party partners specialize for clients who want to understand behavior trends among their customers and use that information to get ahead of the curve.

Improved productivity for non-clinical tasks

Supply chain, revenue cycle, customer service-related tasks, and other non-clinical processes are being streamlined by automation. The use of sensors, cameras, and speakers means repetitive tasks no longer require constant human attention, enhancing productivity while freeing human effort for things that require a more personal touch.

Business Models

Home care – virtual – outpatient

These services are the wave of the future. In-hospital treatment will be reserved for the most severe illnesses and injuries. Patients will appreciate the convenience and not having to idle in waiting rooms. Care providers will realize cost savings and more satisfied customers.

Financial considerations

The affordability of healthcare is hardly a new subject, but there is a balance to be struck between innovation – which requires funding for R&D and testing – and prices. New business models, mergers and expanded service areas, and efficient ways of providing care will help control costs for patients while generating revenue to keep medical centers operating.

Diversification – Mergers – Integration

Increasingly popular reorganization options that help reduce costs will take place more often. Expanding the market for a medical center’s specialized services can improve community health over a more comprehensive service area. If a medical facility provides superior services for a procedure that a neighboring facility cannot offer, expansion or integration just makes sense. If two facilities nearby provide the same service(s), then a merger may be in order.

Outsourced service for healthcare providers and facilities

Contact center and technology services are not why doctors went through extensive training. No one went to med school to learn about scheduling appointments, surveying patients, or troubleshooting IT issues. That is what outsourcing companies do in taking on functions that are not part of direct care, freeing up medical staff members to spend more time with patients. Healthcare outsourcing isn’t only for big companies, and it’s not just about cost-cutting. Choosing the right company can positively impact security and efficiency of service. A competent contact center and technology services outsourcing company can make your business better and your services more tailored to patient needs. Contact us at GlowTouch to learn more about our experience in the healthcare sector.

About GlowTouch

GlowTouch is a privately held and WBENC-certified, woman-owned enterprise, founded in 2002. We provide personalized contact center, business processing, and technology outsourcing solutions to clients around the world. Our 2,300+ employees deliver operational excellence with high-touch engagement garnering recognition by independent bodies such as Everest Group, International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP), and a six-time honoree on the Inc. 5000. GlowTouch is headquartered in Louisville, KY, with onshore contact centers in Louisville, KY, and Miami, FL; a nearshore presence in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; and offshore locations in Mangalore, Bangalore, and Mysore India. To learn more about GlowTouch, visit www.GlowTouch.com

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