Many healthcare professionals said they think the rapid acceleration of digital health technologies that the industry experienced in 2020 will continue to grow in the next year.
Below, nine healthcare innovation leaders from hospitals, health systems and healthcare companies across the country share their predictions for digital health in 2021.
Editor’s note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Jeff Semenchuk, chief innovation officer, Blue Shield of California (Oakland): While the healthcare industry has historically been resistant to change, COVID-19 certainly accelerated innovation in a few key areas, which will continue into the new calendar year.
One is interoperability and standardization across medical records. To date, sharing and exchanging medical records between all of your doctors and healthcare providers has been nearly impossible because they all operate independently, and the data exists in silos. The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a glaring example for the need to access and share records digitally across your providers.
Another is remote managed care for patients with chronic conditions. New care-delivery platforms and in-home care for chronically ill people can provide community-based, physician-led care to patients who have complex health issues and multiple, specific chronic illnesses. Through delivered, home-based medical and behavioral care, social support services will offer patients 24/7 routine visits, urgent care visits and post-discharge home visits to ensure a safe transition from the hospital or skilled nursing setting back to their place of residence. As a result of COVID, patients are looking for these types of options.
The final innovation is access to resources for preventive and holistic care. Online and in-person programs to support patients’ general well-being, preventive care and disease reversal are a must. Leveraging the power of your lifestyle and combining it with research and technology will enable people to take full control in their health journey. With the cost of healthcare rising, providing tools to prevent or reverse diseases that could be costly for patients and the system is a win-win.
Omkar Kulkarni, chief innovation officer at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles: 2021 will be a year of realignment in digital health. As provider systems adjust to the next normal, they will find that consumer preferences for convenience, experience and cost are even stronger than before the pandemic. This will drive health systems to lean on digital tools to bridge gaps in their care delivery models. Health systems will look to virtual care offerings as differentiators in their competitive markets, especially when coupled with remote monitoring and digital therapeutic offerings that can provide wraparound virtual services. Finally, digital connectivity will be recognized as a social determinant of health, and health systems will begin to partner with internet service providers to bridge the digital divide for their most vulnerable populations.
David Shulkin, MD, president of Shulkin Solutions and former secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: By the end of 2021, more than one-third of patients will access their healthcare through a hospital or health system’s digital front door, which provides a single point of entry to provider services.
Chris Coburn, chief innovation officer, Mass General Brigham (Boston): COVID-19 management and learnings will dominate healthcare in 2021 as they did in 2020. Among them will be restructuring and optimizing supply chains. There will be increased intelligence and AI in nearly every supply chain category. Another major theme in 2021, partly…