The digital transformation of healthcare has made significant progress and has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, a pair of prominent panelists agreed at a Monday session at the 2022 convention of the Health Information Management and Systems Society (HIMSS), now underway in Orlando, Florida.
However, the “scaffolding” that was hastily erected to implement the new technologies during the pandemic needs considerable work, said Jodie Lesh, MBA, chief transformation officer of Kaiser Permanente, and John Glaser, MD, executive in residence at Harvard Medical School and a former executive of Cerner, Siemens and Partners Healthcare (now Mass General Brigham).
At issue: which new technologies are ready for prime time vs limitations and resistance to adoption. To continue the progress made thus far, Glaser said, the healthcare system must continue to move toward value-based care, and there must be incentives for health plans and healthcare providers to use the new technologies more effectively.
Kaiser, for example, is utilizing its vast fund of electronic health record data and analytics to improve what it does, Lesh said. That includes research on how to enhance Kaiser’s care model, how best to treat COVID, and how to understand the causes of health disparities. In addition, she noted, Kaiser is using its data to evaluate social determinants of health and what can be done about them.
Asked how many of the technology-related changes prompted by COVID-19 will last, Glaser said it will be a couple of years before that becomes evident. Glaser predicted that regulatory changes regarding Medicare telehealth coverage, such as allowing virtual care across state boundaries and permitting virtual visits to originate at home, will become permanent. For that and other reasons, he expects telehealth to become a more important facet of healthcare.
Lesh agreed with Glaser on telehealth, noting that about 15% of Kaiser’s primary care visits prior to the pandemic were virtual and that the percentage has risen to 40%. Kaiser is continuing to assess patient satisfaction and quality in telehealth and to track how many people have face-to-face visits after virtual encounters.
In addition, she said, “We started using remote patient monitoring in our hospitals to monitor COVID patients, because our staff was stretched thin.” In her view, “that saved a lot of lives due to early intervention. It also showed us what was possible.”
Kaiser also used telehealth to allow patients to connect with their families during the period when visitors were not permitted in its hospitals, she added.
Broader Impact Predicted
The new technologies will eventually have a broader impact on the healthcare system, Glaser said. He cited the “first order” and “second order” effects that all new technologies have. For example, when cars were invented, they replaced horses; after …….