How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted daily life? If we could only count the ways. Everything from how we work to how the kids are schooled has been turned on its head. Even healthcare delivery has been forever transformed. If there is a silver lining to any of this, it could be the fact that healthcare delivery has been forced to join the rest of the world in the 21st century.
As we emerge from coronavirus, healthcare delivery must change to accommodate the rest of the changes forced on us by the pandemic. This suggests that health insurance benefits are going to have to change as well. What it will all look like five years from now is anyone’s guess. But if healthcare delivery and insurance do not look remarkably different than they did at the start of 2020, there will be plenty of surprised people.
Telemedicine Has Finally Arrived
Perhaps the most visible change brought on by the pandemic has been the arrival of telemedicine. Believe it or not, the technology that makes telemedicine work is actually quite old. It is just that telemedicine hasn’t been utilized to its full potential for two reasons.
First, providers have been happy with the in-office model. Why rock the boat? Second, health insurance companies have been reluctant to cover telemedicine services. A doctor isn’t going to go all-in on telemedicine if it will lead to constant battles with insurance companies to get paid.
Now all of that is changing. Healthcare delivery – and primary care more specifically – has been forced by the coronavirus pandemic to embrace telemedicine in all of its glory. Insurance companies have been forced to pay for telehealth services whether they like them or not. Lo and behold, we have discovered that telemedicine actually works quite well for primary care.
For a lot of patients, there is no turning back. One taste of telemedicine has clearly shown them that sitting in a waiting room for hours on end is not the only way to go. Telemedicine has made it clear that there is a more efficient way to visit with the doctor, a way that doesn’t require blocking out an entire day for a single appointment.
Say Goodbye to Fee-For-Service
The traditional fee-for-service model has also been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. If you don’t recall, one of the hallmarks of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was an emphasis on quality of care rather than simply charging fees for designated services. The quality of care goals built into the ACA have not been realized for the same reasons that telemedicine hasn’t been fully utilized. But again, things are changing.
The COVID-19 pandemic has awakened providers to the understanding that their patients are also customers. And as customers, they are more than willing to shop around for healthcare services that meet their needs and fit their budgets. Customers no longer feel the need to stick with the same provider they have been using for years.
What does this mean for health insurance benefits? BenefitMall suggests that carriers are going to have to retool their products in order to give their customers greater choice. They are going to have to build flexibility into their products to promote quality of care. They are going to have to start focusing more on patient outcomes than bottom line numbers.
Healthcare delivery has undoubtedly been changed by the coronavirus crisis. As the country slowly emerges, it is important that those changes remain permanent. It is the only way to move healthcare delivery forward now that so many previously uncrossed lines have finally been crossed.