Five Key Takeaways From Healthcare In 2020
In 2020, a once-in-a-century pandemic turned the healthcare industry upside down. Stakeholders from every industry and profession — elected officials, tech experts, racial justice advocates and more — are having incredibly important conversations about the future of healthcare while our country continues to battle the ongoing crisis.
As we reflect on the past year, five key changes have set the trajectory for 2021.
1. The Explosion Of Telehealth
Though many have touted the potential of telehealth for years, legal challenges, regulatory red tape and slow patient adoption held down growth. A 2019 survey of consumers found that while 66% were willing to try telehealth services, only 8% had, and only 22% of doctors had seen a patient with telehealth. By October 2020, 59% of consumers had used telehealth for the first time, and 80% of physicians were seeing patients through telehealth. Patient satisfaction with telehealth is “among the highest of all healthcare, insurance and financial services industry studies.”
Though people are using telehealth less now than at the start of the pandemic, many of the barriers to patient and physician adoption have been removed. Today, telehealth has proven its worth to consumers and businesses. Tomorrow, stakeholders must work together to better integrate virtual services into the care continuum and improve user experience.
2. The Calls To Make Racial Health Equity A Reality
The atrocious acts of brutal racism against Black men and women like George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and so many more led to calls to address systemic racism in America. The Covid-19 pandemic then demonstrated the devastating impacts of racism on public health — despite making up a little more than 30% of the population, Black and Hispanic people make up half of in-hospital Covid-19 deaths.
One critical facet of uprooting systemic racism is ensuring racial health equity. In 2020, many in the healthcare industry (including Advantia Health) affirmed that Black Lives Matter and took steps to support Black doctors, nurses, patients and community members. As healthcare industry leaders, we cannot let the importance of health equity fade away with news cycles. It must be a central focus of every health system and individual provider for the coming year and every year after.
3. The Ongoing Growth Of Women’s Healthcare
2020 was expected to be a banner year for investment women’s healthcare — our own January funding announcement helped to kick it off. Throughout the last ten months, the Covid-19 pandemic has illustrated the importance of growing this industry. 54% of OB-GYNs saw fewer patients, a decline that will result in fewer early cancer diagnoses. Working women and mothers have added more child care and household responsibilities to their already overbooked schedules. The Covid-19 virus impacts men and women differently, underscoring the physiological differences that must be accounted for in medicine. .
Despite the difficult economic and healthcare environments, investment in women’s healthcare continued to grow in 2020. There are a plethora of exciting healthcare opportunities designed specifically for women that will additionally benefit all public health by lowering maternal mortality rates and improving infant health. In 2021, the industry is poised to continue growth in pregnancy and breastfeeding, which is important as my company's research shows that women are more likely to breastfeed during the pandemic but believe it will be more difficult. At the same time, investors see growth opportunities in additional care areas including menopause and diabetes
4. The Movement Toward Value-Based Care
Many (but not all) providers struggled under the traditional fee-for-service (FFS) care model during the pandemic, as elective procedures were postponed. In the FFS model, providers typically depend on profits from high-dollar elective procedures to offset the cost of services with lower revenue margins, such as preventative care. Conversely, a value-based care (VBC) model rewards providers for improving health outcomes and leads to long-term savings for both practice and patient. VBC is particularly exciting in women’s healthcare, where there is a huge opportunity to lower costs and improve outcomes during pregnancy.
The industry’s transition to VBC is more urgent than ever as the pandemic exacerbates the need to lower the cost of healthcare. By 2025, the Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) aim to use VBC in 50% of Medicaid and commercial contracts. In the coming years, we will see more adoption of smarter, effective VBC contracts in both the public and private healthcare sectors.
5. The Needs Of Front-Line Healthcare Workers
In the last ten months, front-line healthcare workers have woken up every day to run toward the fire. Sometimes without personal protective equipment, sometimes without enough staff, and sometimes without public support. We may never know precisely how many lives front-line healthcare workers have saved, but we do know the devastating toll it has taken on them.
We must start preparing now for the mental health epidemic that has begun during the Covid-19 pandemic and that will grow during and after vaccination distribution. Many front-line healthcare workers did not get the support they needed to fight the pandemic. In 2021, we owe them the support they need to recover from it.
To The Future and Beyond
In 2021, many urgent challenges still need to be addressed in responding to the pandemic and helping our front-line healthcare workers. After the rapid expansion of telehealth and the fastest vaccine development in history, our understanding of what is possible in healthcare has changed. Building on this momentum, we must continue to accelerate innovative solutions to our biggest challenges, including health equity, as we move forward.