Our 55th episode guest on The Big Unlock podcast was Sara Vaezy, Chief Digital Strategy and Business Development Officer of Providence Health. Sara is a well-known thought leader in digital health space and has recently published a series of reports on the current state of the healthcare market from a digital transformation standpoint. The name of the series is COVID-19 Digital Insight Series. She refers to COVID-19 as a catalyst for digital transformation in healthcare and an opportunity to create better healthcare experiences. Sara also discussed about telehealth’s current state with Paddy Padmanabhan, CEO of Damo Consulting.
An opportunity to reset and create a better healthcare system
Listen to the full conversation
In February and early March, when the first wave of COVID outbreaks hit western U.S., Providence and other healthcare systems had to mobilize all their assets across the organization. Whether it is healthcare, IT, digital, or technical services, everything was mobilized to tackle the challenges faced due to the pandemic. According to Sara, the current pandemic has created an opportunity for the healthcare industry to reset and create a better healthcare system. The healthcare industry, post-COVID, is mostly going to be about acceleration of new paradigms and new ways of caring for people and business models that prioritize health and well-being.
“Back in February and early March, we had the first wave of COVID outbreaks in the regions where we serve our patients in the western United States. We had to mobilize our assets across the organization very quickly. As we continued throughout this process, we realized that from a build standpoint, we have a significant product development organization that can build technology to address these needs. There is an opportunity for us now to reset and use what is out there and create a better system.”
– Sara Vaezy, The Big Unlock podcast, Episode #55
COVID-19 was a catalyst and acted as an opportunity to evolve the healthcare industry
As per Sara, COVID was a catalyst that created two paths of activity for the healthcare industry. One, where the industry needed to control and tackle the challenges created by the pandemic and mobilized its IT, digital, and technology services overnight. Second, considering the pandemic as an opportunity to evolve the healthcare industry and finding new paradigms and ways of caring for people and business models. The industry needs to continue to serve while its evolving, transforming, or transitioning towards providing a better healthcare experience.
“When COVID started, it was a catalyst for two paths of activity. The first was all COVID related, the mobilization phase, so the acute phase dissipates, but it’s not going away permanently. So, we must continue to manage and mitigate and monitor the situation. The next possibility is where we have an opportunity to take a good, hard look at how to evolve from where we are. We have to immediately get back to recovery and understand how we can get back to business. How can we use this as an opportunity? It is really not a COVID-related path of work. It’s more about continuing to serve while evolving.” – Sara Vaezy
“How can we use this as an opportunity? It is really not a COVID-related path of work. It’s more about continuing to serve while evolving” – Sara Vaezy
Current state of telehealth adoption
According to Sara, the healthcare industry needs to design better healthcare experiences for increasing the adoption of telehealth technology. The industry also needs core IT enablers to make it a success.
“We haven’t had the underlying enablers to make telehealth a success. For instance, we have not had the legislative or regulatory framework underneath to ensure that telehealth was viable from a licensure and a reimbursement standpoint. Another aspect of it is that we haven’t had a lot of adoption. Most folks had not experienced telehealth as patients and our providers weren’t really using it.” – Sara
When the pandemic hit, there was a surge in telehealth usage but now there is a visible decline in the numbers. Possibly because the telehealth experience is still not up to the mark and the industry is still struggling to find better use cases for it to be a success. Secondly, because the healthcare systems are now slowly opening up for physical visits. She states that, there will always be a mix of virtual visits and in-person visits depending upon the kind of care a patient requires. But the industry still needs to improve the technology to make healthcare experiences more efficacious and more value added for customers.
“From Providence standpoint, we have seen a similar trend where there was a peak and then decline. As practices started to fill back up and could open with physical visits, it’s difficult to maintain and sustain the peak progress and momentum when the experience is challenged from a telehealth standpoint. I think that it is incumbent upon us to make that experience better and continue to drive adoption.” – Sara Vaezy