The MassChallenge HealthTech (MCHT) team is grateful to have innovative industry-leaders as partners (see who below) in our program and in the uncertain times created by COVID-19, we look to them to gauge what the future of the healthcare industry holds.
On May 28th, MCHT co-hosted a virtual roundtable discussion with SoftServe around “Restarting Healthcare.” The goal was to provide a platform for these healthcare leaders to communicate amongst each other and identify potential themes across their organizations and solutions when reopening the healthcare industry. Here are some of their key takeaways from the conversations: Here are some of their key takeaways from the conversations:
1) Our Champions want to rethink the patient-physician experience
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a major surge in telemedicine use. Patients are now seeing their doctors virtually amid stay-at-home orders. While the world begins to adjust to a “new normal” -- or, a “new abnormal” as HealthTech Managing Director Nick Dougherty dubbed it -- questions are emerging around the “new” patient-physician experience, coupled with many unknowns surrounding the future of telemedicine.
We previously published a blog post on the future of telemedicine, but our Champions wanted the opportunity to rethink the future of the patient-physician experience. Today, patients are not feeling comfortable or safe enough to return to the hospital for appointments. Our Champions in the provider space are currently figuring out how to make patients feel comfortable and safe.
For example, the Managing Director of a large provider organization shared insights about the potential reopening, stating “we are planning a phased approach for reopening. We are constantly thinking about how we can safely bring patients back into our facilities and the steps that are being taken to ensure everyone’s safety.” The individual also discussed that this “new normal” will require increased scheduling capabilities for patients and staff, and, that the organization is looking for the right partners to build this out.
A representative from a healthcare organization also shared that physicians are trying to figure out whether patients will come back for in-person visits or not. “At the AMA, we are trying to understand what healthcare will look like going forward. What will physicians’ offices look like as a result of telemedicine? Will we need all this office space?” The representative encourages physicians to start having this important dialogue with patients and other healthcare professionals.
2) Our Champions are concerned yet hopeful for the future
We are observing an increased adoption of innovative technologies as a result of the pandemic, and our Champions also recognize (and often play an integral role in) this trend. Startups such as Buoy Health, Firefly Health, DynamiCare Health, and others have taken off exponentially with the hope they will continue to grow following the pandemic. We have consistently observed 3 to 5 year digital health or innovation plans being accomplished in 3 to 5 weeks for these startups.
However, our Champions are still concerned about the future. There are still many questions to be answered. One example is around virtual care and its potential to be covered by healthcare insurance. The Assistant Chief Medical Information Officer of another large provider organization raised flags about whether virtual care will be covered by healthcare insurance for patients. The Deputy Chief of Innovation and Strategy at a health plan agreed with this concern starting that there is still uncertainty around this topic amongst their organization.
Finally, with virtual care on the rise, questions emerge around insurance and healthcare coverage for patients. Our Champions want clarity on healthcare coverage in order to determine how to balance telemedicine and in-person visits moving forward. One participant stated “as a care delivery system, we are trying to invent a new care model on the fly, and it would be incredibly helpful to know what the payors are thinking.”
3) Transparency and communication amongst healthcare leaders is more important than ever
A consistent theme throughout this conversation was the desire for increased communication and transparency amongst these leading healthcare organizations, especially between payors and providers. With the future so uncertain, it will be very hard to make certain key decisions and work through challenges without input from both sides of the equation.
On the provider side, organizations are attempting to invent and implement a new care model on the fly. The COO of a provider organization reiterated how helpful it would be to know what payors are thinking about coverage moving forward.
Perhaps the biggest question is which services will continue to be rendered virtually and which will be done in-person as we move forward. According to multiple attendees, it could be as high as 80% virtual or as low as 20% virtual—there’s no definitive percentage at this time. One representative chimed in that there is actually a good amount of medical care that is traditionally done in person, but could certainly be done virtually, such as management of chronic diseases.
However, at this point, telemedicine is a huge burden on physicians as they have to figure out new systems and deal with technical challenges.
Overall, the situation continues to change almost daily and the path forward remains unclear. However, our patient, payor, provider, government, and association leaders agreed that it will take healthcare organizations working together to define our new future. We look forward to working with our community next year to address this challenge head-on and we hope you will join us.
If you or your organization is interested in supporting or getting more involved as a partner with MassChallenge HealthTech, please reach out to [email protected]. Follow us on social media and subscribe to the newsletter to stay up to date with all things MCHT!
Participants from this discussion hailed from our pool of partners listed below: