How to bring the digital health lessons learned from COVID-19 into the future

When the COVID-19 pandemic began to sweep the country in the spring, many systems found themselves having to abruptly shift focus – sometimes, with very little notice. 

In typical times, said David Sylvan, president of University Hospitals Ventures, “Everyone knows that introducing new technologies to a provider system is kindly described as ‘laborious.'”

“It’s a glacial process,” said Sylvan, speaking Wednesday at the HIMSS Machine Learning & AI for Healthcare Digital Summit.

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But when confronted with the novel coronavirus crisis – and with the help of legal, compliance and IT teams – Sylvan said his organization was able to stand up new and iterative processes, “literally within a matter of days.”

Sylvan, along with co-panelist Maryam Gholami, chief product officer for digital innovations at Providence St. Joseph, described how the pandemic necessitated innovative uses of technology and personnel to get resources and care to those who needed them most.

“Platforms like ours were immediately called upon to sort of redeploy what it is that we do,” Sylvan said. “Our go-to market became refocused on how we could support our internal constituents and internal partners.” 

“There’s really a distinct focus for us on how we could use our tools and resources to facilitate, specifically, the likes of remote monitoring and digital tethering,” added Sylvan. 

“We have been going through this process of how [to] bring new technology solutions … for a while,” said Gholami. “With the pandemic, what changed was the fact that now all the different disciplines had to come together and make sure that we are going to apply this at scale.”

“Perhaps one of the positive impacts of the pandemic,” she continued, is that “consumers are ready to adopt these technologies because they use it in other industries.”

Looking forward, even after the pandemic’s threat has abated, Gholami said, “as technologists, we have a really good opportunity to make sure that the momentum is going to continue.”

Gholami pointed specifically to the convenience and access potential of telehealth as being attractive to consumers and providers beyond COVID-19.

“Anytime there’s a compelling reason for users … to move toward a certain direction, it’s up to us to take that opportunity and provide the type of user experience that they just don’t want to go back to the past.”

“The question is: How do we route consumers to the right modality of care? How do we manage capacity and supply? Those are some of the problems we are working on,” said Gholami.

“Sometimes you have to follow the rule of ‘follow the money,'” said Sylvan. “How do we think about optimizing by looking backwards back into the system in order, to think about the machinery that impacts the delivery of healthcare?

“The extent to which we’re able to embrace this transition from volume to value through technology enablement, I think, is going to differentiate those who continue to remain viable,” he added.


Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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