By Vladimir Kuzmenko
The COVID-19 pandemic not only forced healthcare organizations to find new ways of operating, but also accelerated trends such as the use of telehealth/mobile apps, managing cash flow, and remote and secure information sharing.
These changes to how care is delivered and how information is shared will continue to impact healthcare long after the pandemic has passed. New realities about providing care, cost, and workforce availability will likely shape healthcare for the rest of this decade and beyond. Let’s consider the impact of how mobile apps, telehealth, cash flow management, and secure information sharing will impact the evolution of healthcare in the coming decade.
Telehealth has been cited as a way to bring healthcare expertise to rural and underserved areas. Already telehealth has been used as a way to bring care to Canadian First Nations and United States Native American communities. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced practitioners, patients, and payers to look for solutions that allow patients to get the care they need while preserving the health of front-line healthcare practitioners.
Telehealth has also been boosted by the increased ubiquity of smartphones, improved cameras on these phones, the explosion of apps for these phones, and wearable devices that measure basic health parameters such as heart rate. However, any telehealth app must allow a user to receive accurate, updated, affordable healthcare advice from trained experts.
This means any app used for the transmission of care must be secure, perform on internet connections, and integrate with local healthcare providers of all specialties, as well as pharmacies. These apps must also work on both major smartphone platforms, iOS and Android.
Organizations considering an expansion into telehealth to better serve their patients through this technology will want to work with an experienced partner to create an app and other connection solution that meets patient, practitioner, and privacy requirements, up to and including HIPAA. Realistically, telehealth infrastructure is an investment in the future of care for many generations and can serve long past the peak of the pandemic, not only a service that will immediately change an organization’s financial standings.
Managing cash flow
The global pandemic stretched healthcare resources considerably, to say nothing of its impact financially on care organizations. Maintaining accurate, up-to-date financial records is critical for organizations to allow their providers to continue providing care to their communities.
Many healthcare organizations, however, are very good at providing care, but perhaps not as good at managing cash flow and expenses. Organizations that have successfully integrated their patient care and electronic health records may not have done the same with their internal financial programs.
One way around this is the development of a financial intranet. This tool can help healthcare organizations manage the details of their cash flow while putting into place safeguards to reduce the risk of unauthorized spending, fraud, and data breaches.
A healthcare organization may manage their patient and insurance billing, financial follow-up, department expenses, purchasing, and more, through a financial intranet. The intranet then becomes a tool for all staff to share in best practices. It is easy for healthcare departments to become siloed; an intranet opens up communication and increases the sense of community in an organization.
Secure information sharing
One of the underlying factors for both of the above developments is data security. Whether it is protecting a patient’s confidential health information, an organization’s financial records, or communication between two parties, the need for data security is both greater and more complicated than ever.
There are different tools to help achieve these data security needs. One is known as hyperledger fabric. Hyperledger fabric allows companies to build customized blockchains, which increases their utility and security while allowing for cross-industry knowledge to be combined. This fabric is already being used or researched in such industries as healthcare, banking, manufacturing, and more.
Hyperledger fabric can facilitate the sharing of confidential data through its ability to require permission(s) before any data or information is accessed. Developers can create private channels that are useful in any circumstance where confidential obligations need to be managed without sending everything through a central authority.
Here’s an example of how this may be used: A student transfers schools from a district far away, so it’s not feasible or secure to share the student’s medical records by other means than through electronic version. Developers can use hyperledger fabric to create channels where the key participants (physician, parents, and school) can share this information securely. In this example, the school can access the student’s medical records only after the parents grant permission.
Evolution will lead to more change
As this still-growing technology evolves, new and unexpected applications will develop. New, secure forms of communication are necessary to ensure that organizations can find more efficient ways to conduct business.
All three of these evolutions will allow organizations to deliver better healthcare to their patients while facilitating better management of financial resources.