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Connected Health: The new reality for healthcare

The light at the end of the tunnel

The emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and the devastating impacts of COVID-19 disease in countries and territories around the world, has brought irrevocable changes to our lives, the global economy, and the industries of which it is comprised. While the immediate focus for health systems globally has been in preparing for and responding to the health crisis precipitated by the pandemic, health leaders around the world are increasingly looking toward the post-COVID-19 new reality for healthcare.

Person walking in corridor

Though the foundations of this new reality will have at their core the objectives of financial sustainability, safety and quality in the delivery of care, and access to services, the world’s leading health systems are questioning whether this new reality demands more than simply another incremental improvement. The lessons they have learned through the COVID-19 crisis point perhaps to a more troubling conclusion: that we have allowed our deference to the complexity of our health systems to drastically limit the scale, scope and speed of the transformation that they very much need.

Consider, for example, the need to transform ­the healthcare ‘experience’ for patients and carers (hereafter referred to as consumers) and healthcare workers. Other industries facing the evolution of consumer expectations have met this new challenge through digital transformation. They have provided more seamless experiences that consumers value while fundamentally changing the way their businesses operate. In entertainment, organizations that previously focused on content creation, have pivoted successfully into new distribution channels that connect them directly with consumers at lower costs. In retail, organizations with long term investments in store-front infrastructure have refocused on omnichannel strategies, allowing them to be more responsive to the dramatic shifts in their sector.

Changes in healthcare are long overdue

The emerging evidence from health systems around the world is that COVID-19 will provide the impetus for similar, long overdue changes to the way that we receive and deliver care. The new reality for healthcare will require redesign of care systems to address primary, secondary, community and acute care in a post-COVID-19 world. It will demand a more agile, inter-professional workforce that will deliver team-based care; with empowered front-line staff leveraging technology (including virtual care) to allow them to focus on higher-value work. And it will need to sustain virtual care and digital advancements that healthcare consumers have now come to expect to ensure continuous access to health services in a safe and convenient way.

Connected health - infographic chart

These shifts were clearly being felt in healthcare systems prior to the onset of COVID-19, albeit at much slower rates of change than in other industries. Through a Forrester survey, KPMG International (KPMGI) asked four hundred health leaders in nine jurisdictions to shed light on what they felt were the most important changes coming to healthcare and how they were preparing for these changes.1

Globally, this survey found that while the vast majority of healthcare leaders listed consumer centricity as a high priority, they felt that they were being limited by barriers (of which digital-related barriers were the most significant) and gaps in capability.2

In other words, we have allowed the complexity of our systems to prevail over our expressed desire to put patients at the very center of care and the systems that deliver it. As a result, only ten percent of respondents truly believe that they are consistently exceeding patient expectations.3

Embracing the promise of digital transformation

So if the experience of consumers is to be the ‘true north’ of our health systems, how should executives, clinicians, payers and policy makers navigate toward it as the pandemic subsides? How can they embrace the promise of digital to give consumers what they need and expect while managing within a new era of austerity and fiscal constraint that will arise from a long term recession? And how should fatigued workforces be balanced against the substantial shift in ways of work that the digital age of healthcare will almost certainly herald?

To support health systems in this shift, KPMG Healthcare specialists seek to set out how healthcare organizations can deliver the digital transformation needed to be successful in this new reality. KPMG’s vision is of a truly connected health system, where digital transformation allows healthcare consumers to experience a seamless care journey that is:

  • Connected across channels;
  • Connected across care settings;
  • Delivered by healthcare organizations with integrated front, middle and back offices;
  • Underpinned by harnessing enterprise technology for the benefit of consumers;
  • Supported by investment in new skills needed to deliver on the promise of digital technology.

Complete article Credit: (KPMG - 2020)

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