Predicting Tomorrow’s Public Health Priorities from Today’s Experiences

May 7, 2020

As organizations across the healthcare spectrum look toward life after the curve flattens, the healthcare industry as we know it will be changed forever. As the novel coronavirus continues to wreak havoc in our communities, it’s also beginning to shine a spotlight on existing health disparities that can no longer be ignored. The issues that rose to the top over the last few months have opened public health opportunities that will pave the way for the future of healthcare delivery.

As a healthcare communicator, I spend my days working with partners throughout the industry, from payers to providers and everything in between. I offer counsel and strategy to these clients to help shape communications in this constantly evolving environment. From these conversations, the following themes that will shape our post-COVID industry have emerged:

  • Changing the perceptions of ​virtual care for​ all age brackets. ​Telemedicine, which historically had low adoption and usage rates from patients and the industry overall, evolved as the go-to access point for patients of all ages, degrees of tech-savviness and disease types. From those suspecting they have COVID-19-related symptoms to others checking in with their primary care provider or therapist, virtual access stabilized connections for patients with their providers. Post-COVID, the adoption and use of telemedicine services will be more widely used and accepted for all conditions and medical visits.
  • Adding urgency to addressing ​SDOH, particularly for vulnerable populations. ​Social determinants of health (SDOH) is not a new concept in the industry, but post-COVID-19, the healthcare system will more strongly address vulnerable populations. For instance, grocery store chains operated special senior hours to allow elderly patrons to shop in the stores while practicing social distancing—imagine if putting this group’s needs at the forefront was routine. Post-COVID, it will also be critical for the industry to address the needs of our lower-income socioeconomic populations, continuing to support preventative health initiatives including access to transportation, nutritious food options and quality medical care.
  • Pushing the role of the health insurer. ​In the past few months, we’ve seen all sections of the industry rise to the occasion and band together to combat coronavirus. Health insurers have moved quickly to clear hurdles. From waiving co-pays for diagnostic testing related to COVID-19 to increasing access to telemedicine with zero co-pays, payers have been a critical component in providing access and assistance during this time of crisis. By extending coverage for coronavirus treatment in benefit plans, insurers made care and treatment the number one priority and broke down barriers for patients to access care. Across the country, we have also seen health insurers stepping up to help those in need in many ways, such as financial support and donations to food banks, sponsorship of thousands of grocery boxes and providing crisis support. These are actions and roles that health insurers have an opportunity to lean into post-COVID.
  • Investing in a robust digital and social media presence ​to reach clients during a crisis. ​Sheltering in place has created the largest work-from-home experiment in history – one that has been fairly effective — but it has created new challenges for hospitals, providers, payers and industry partners to communicate with newly-housebound patients and clients. These companies are using their digital channels to share updates with this engaged and captive audience. Strategic communications and messaging that are authentic and informative have never been more important: despite sheltering in place, many in the healthcare ecosystem continue to be strongly connected.

With these themes at the forefront, it is critical that healthcare organizations reevaluate their strategies and future planning. We have already learned so much and found ways to embrace a more unified approach to care, and it is my belief that the upcoming healthcare delivery evolution, shaped by these elements, will reflect a stronger and more empathic system. The future of healthcare will advance many changes and hopefully continue to open up new access points to care, so we can all do a better job of helping each other.

If you’d like to talk about how any of these themes might impact your own business, please get in touch.

Laura Vinci is an account supervisor in Ketchum’s health practice, specializing in public health, healthcare access, surgical innovations and consumer health topics. Based in New York, she has a passion for yoga, white wine and making headlines for her clients.