COVID. It's a terrible word, and one that we are ALL too familiar with. It has been an incredibly tough time, for such a long time, for almost everyone on our planet. Our healthcare workers have been stretched to (beyond) their limits, and most of us have been negatively impacted, in one way or another, by the devasting pandemic. It's time for COVID to just go away - so that we can get back to our real ("normal") lives and celebrate the positives that remain - our families, our friendships, and our health. While the return to normal may be the ultimate goal, and the light at the end of a dark tunnel, the face and future of healthcare will see some major transformations in the months and years to come.
Just look at Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT). Although this service was severely (negatively) impacted at the onset of the pandemic, NEMT services quickly pivoted to accommodate the changing needs of its members. Services like meals on wheels, or trips to and from Covid testing centers, have become part of NEMT's standard services. Today, many new and improved services have emerged, and one thing has become crystal clear - individuals need more choice when it comes to how NEMT is accessed and delivered. Individuals who do not drive and need access to medical care, will still rely on public and private transportation to get to and from medical services and appointments. And NEMT services funders will still require data to make payments. While these facets of NEMT won't change, we need to recognize that some individuals have been forever changed by the emotional effects of the pandemic. Even after vaccinations are completed, member behavior will guide the path of the sector. Grief, uncertainty, and fear will likely drive members to behave very differently in the recovery phase, enhancing the need to meet members where they are and deliver post-pandemic care on member terms. Also, access to NEMT services will move increasingly from traditional telephone call centers, to online self-service functionality.
COVID-19 has revealed how vulnerable the health care industry is to change, and its need for structural and technological transformation. Traditional NEMT has already started to adjust to more non-medical style services, as a shift is happening, from healthcare services to wellness care. This includes the potential for more trips to grocery stores, shopping jaunts and even shuttle rides to social events. And NEMT is just one of the areas making a shift.
According to a recent research article by Deloitte about the future of health, we can expect 6 key areas to collectively transform the existing health system from treatment-based and reactionary care, to prevention and well-being:
The traditional boundaries of the healthcare industry will start to dissolve, and new roles will emerge in the future of health due to exponential innovation. Here are just a few examples:
Seemingly overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly changed the course of health care’s future, and from an innovation standpoint, for the better. While disease will never be eliminated, through science, data, and technology, we will be able to identify it earlier, intervene proactively, and better understand its progression, to help individuals more effectively and actively sustain their well-being. The future will be focused on wellness and managed by companies that assume new roles to drive value in the transformed health ecosystem.