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Transformation in healthcare

Our lightbulb moment: COVID-19 will promote people-driven healthcare


  • susan lucas collins
    Susan Lucas Collins
  • Apr 27, 2020
TLDR

Perhaps the COVID-19 pandemic represents a sea change—our lightbulb moment. Could the silver lining be that we are forced to dramatically transform in a meaningful way?

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There’s a famous saying about innovation:

“It’s not about improving the candle, but rather, building a light bulb.”

For decades, healthcare has talked about becoming consumer driven. Initiatives to that end, for the most part, have been incremental in nature: aka, building a better candle.

We’ve installed kiosks in our reception areas, put up billboards with live wait times, and provided apps and portals for limited self-service.

Improvements? Sure. But they don’t represent a shift to a truly consumer driven model—no lightbulb quite yet.

Meanwhile, time flies by, and in the US, the traditional approach has become unsustainable. At almost 20 percent of GDP, our costs are among the highest in the world. Despite that spend, outcomes are nowhere near the top of the class.

So, we hear a lot of talk about the pursuit of the triple aim of reducing costs, improving outcomes, and raising patient satisfaction (now, properly expanded to the quadruple aim, which adds the very real problem of solving provider burnout to the mix).

Over the last three decades I have had the privilege of serving this industry on both the provider and the technology side of things. During that time, I’ve never met anyone who disagrees that it is imperative that we lower costs, improve outcomes, and increase satisfaction for all stakeholders—both patients and providers. But, I think it is fair to say that we still have a lot of opportunity for improvement.

Perhaps the COVID-19 pandemic represents a sea change—our lightbulb moment. Could the silver lining be that we are forced to dramatically transform in a meaningful way?

The innovative solutions that have been deployed to address the COVID-19 crisis provide an opportunity for the industry to advance the use of technology to deliver better outcomes for patients, and create tools that fit seamlessly within a physician's workflow. This has always been the vision, but the coronavirus crisis highlighted the urgency, immediacy and magnitude of that need.

Consumer engagement in healthcare is the key to the kingdom

The pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the healthcare industry in a rational direction, effectively pouring lighter fluid on a transformation that was already underway, as we saw earlier this year with new reimbursement rules around mHealth.

In weeks, COVID-19 has proven that tech can work in healthcare when it comes to patient convenience, access, and quality care at a lower cost. The way we deliver healthcare will be fundamentally changed for the better.

Software has enabled healthcare providers to build and scale at unprecedented speed in response to overwhelming doctor and patient need, as hospitals struggle to curb the spread of the virus while continuing to deliver care through the pandemic.

In a matter of days, Sycle Health launched a telehealth platform after just four days of development. Asparia, formerly SimplifiMed, can now triage patients online via chatbot and video—an innovation that took less than a week. Patient engagement platform Cipherhealth launched a remote COVID-19 screening outreach program to help providers better allocate precious resources—in just 48 hours.

In hard-hit New York, Mount Sinai health system, one of the largest health systems there, has drastically changed how they communicate with patients. It started with a text-to-chat interaction they started building for the flu season, so patients could text and explain their symptoms rather than visit an ER. Adoption has increased 10x in the last month.

COVID-19 has proven that tech can work in healthcare when it comes to patient convenience, access, and quality care at a lower cost.

Susan Lucas Collins

This shift to a people-first approach will forever be our new normal

In the short-term, we should expect some real hiccups, like security vulnerabilities stemming from the immediate “band aid” approach to launching patient-facing apps quickly. And while HHS announced that they are offering a limited temporary waiver of sanctions for certain aspects of the HIPAA rule, this does not mean HIPAA has been suspended or eliminated. Software providers handling protected health information (PHI) must continue following the appropriate HIPAA guidelines to ensure the safety and security of their customers’ information.

In the long-term, we will see critical, life-changing transformation thanks to software, such as the connected doctor experience that enables proactive vs. reactive care; seniors’ ability to “age in place” with technology support at home; delivery of routine and even some acute care via video visits; better “at home” or “at work” screening ability in terms of disease detection; and wider use of artificial intelligence to triage situations and deploy resources.

At its most nascent level, software enables three things: cloud scale, agility to build fast, and one-on-one communication with consumers. The solutions born out of necessity during this crisis won’t disappear when COVID-19 is contained. Consumers won’t allow it.

This is our lightbulb moment. In spite of overwhelming challenges and very real uncertainties, I’m confident in our industry’s ability to heal, grow, and to continue to create solutions with true staying power. From this day forward, traditional care will evolve to meet the consumer where they are, on the channel that they prefer, and at the very moment when they need it.

From this day forward, traditional care will evolve to meet the consumer where they are, on the channel that they prefer, and at the very moment when they need it.

Susan Lucas Collins

If your organization needs support, consider the following:

  • We’ve expanded eligibility for our Impact Access program, which provides $500 in Twilio product credits plus additional 25 percent discounts beyond nonprofits to any organization providing direct response efforts benefiting the public around COVID-19.

  • Twilio Video is now free for three months for healthcare, education, and nonprofit institutions.

  • Twilio Flex, our contact center product, is offering 20,000 free hours per month to organizations helping with direct response through August 31.

  • In addition to the $1.5 million we’ve donated so far, we’ll be opening a grant round at the end of April to fund organizations helping at-risk communities recover from COVID-19. You can sign up for updates here.

  • Our team is standing by if you want to connect about technical advice or building solutions together.

Twilio COVID-19 response

Contact us to get personalized insight on how Twilio can help.

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susan lucas collins

Susan Lucas Collins

Susan Lucas Collins is the Global Head of Healthcare Services at Twilio. She has extensive experience managing through shifting regulatory and reimbursement models, has provided trusted counsel to executives seeking insight in rapidly evolving markets, and is passionate about developing solutions that create a measurable difference in the world. Prior to Twilio, she led Salesforce’s healthcare and life sciences organization.

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