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2021 has dawned with the healthcare industry still in the midst of the sea change brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. Many see the promise of healthcare innovation as one way to help the industry weather the pandemic that shows no signs of slowing down. But for innovation to succeed, it needs to be backed by strategic investments.

Panelists from Stanford at the virtual 39th annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference outlined where some of those investments could be made. 

According to Dr. Euan Ashley, co-director of the Stanford Center for Digital Health in Palo Alto, California, there are opportunities for investment in bolstering at-home testing for respiratory diseases.

Though vaccine development moved very fast, diagnostic testing did not. A huge impact could have been made in the course of the pandemic had convenient, affordable at-home testing been made widely available early on, Ashley said. The need for this type of testing has not declined, and now that healthcare consumers are more used to receiving care at home — thanks to the rapid adoption of telehealth — at-home testing may become a common consumer demand.

“If we can have that MD visit at home or maybe an advanced practice nurse visit at home through telehealth, then we need the testing to go along with it,” he said. “We need the diagnostic testing that can be safely completed at home.”

Another key opportunity for investment amid the pandemic is in value-based care models, said a co-panelist Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, Taube professor of global health and infectious diseases at Stanford Medicine. One of the main difficulties in successfully implementing value-based care models is that measuring and reimbursing for value is a complicated task.

“But we shouldn’t let that opportunity be lost,” Maldonado said. “I really think this [pandemic] is an opportunity to really change the way we structure our healthcare models to make them not only sustainable but incentivize our providers to provide the best quality care.”

It’s not that providers don’t want to move toward value-based care, its rather that they don’t have a systemic way of building those models and knowing what metrics to focus on for different diseases, she added.

One of the biggest changes brought on by the pandemic was the disruption in care delivery. As patients grew fearful of seeking care at hospitals amid a rise in Covid-19 cases, technology-based solutions like telehealth and remote patient monitoring became popular. This trend is likely to continue, and Dr. Megan Mahoney, chief of staff at Stanford Health Care, believes that investment in services and solutions that can augment the provision of care outside the walls of a hospital present a big opportunity for the industry.

But the rapid adoption of technology for healthcare has made existing racial and socioeconomic disparities clearer than ever. There is a real concern that this quick pivot to all things digital is exacerbating the divide, Mahoney said at the conference.

For example, people who don’t speak English may have difficulty using applications and other solutions that don’t have multilingual options. In addition, there are is a lack of widespread access to broadband and high-speed internet, which also limit a patient’s ability to receive care remotely.

“If we were to ensure that design of these innovations included all users across the population, then we could potentially access a broader customer segment, frankly, that currently is not being served well,” Mahoney said.

Photo credit: Peshkova, Getty Images

 



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