One thing has become clear, the coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally reshaped the U.S. healthcare system, leaving its problems exposed. Seniors have become weary of going to the doctor, in fear of catching something worse than they already have, such as the virus. CNBC’s annual Technology Executive Council Summit occurred Thursday, October 29th, where the top experts on healthcare discussed the matter.
Seniors avoid the doctor
Carissa Rollins, UnitedHealthcare’s chief information officer, has been tracking the trend. United, which is the largest health insurer in the United States, has seen a dramatic shift. Since January, she said, “there have been 13 million telehealth visits, representing 1.3 visits per member. Behavioral health has seen a particularly large surge. And women are driving the adoption, given that they are often the “primary decision-makers on health care for their families.”
“People are delaying care and we are concerned,” added Rollins.
“We are seeing the biggest drop in screening and it’s hard to predict what will happen,” added Darren Dworkin, the senior vice president of enterprise information services and CIO for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, referring to the decreasing number of Americans seeking preventative care.
Telemedicine to the rescue
But according to a panel of experts, the pandemic has also brought positive change to healthcare. One of the biggest shifts has been the adoption of telemedicine. Millions of Americans have had to seek alternative ways of seeking medical help during the pandemic and are now opting for a virtual video visit or chat session with a doctor.
Dworkin said that at the beginning of the pandemic his visits went from the high single-digit thousands per month to 10 times that. He added, “The health system is seeing a drift to going back to in-person.” It remains unclear how telemedicine will be used in the years after the pandemic.
Experts agree on the direction of healthcare difficult to predict
Stephen Boyer, the founder, and chief technology officer of BigSight, a cybersecurity company, agreed on the difficulty in prediction. “We are preparing for a marathon,” he said. The panelists agreed that there’s a lot more we could be doing to get the virus under control.
Contact tracing, the process by which trained public health personnel contact those who have tested positive for the virus and try to establish the people they might have exposed to the virus, has struggled to take off in the United States relative to other countries. And that’s despite the new technology tools that aim to make it easier such as smartphones.
Dworkin described the lack of contact tracing in the various states as less of a technology problem and more about the lack of coordination. “The reality is that health care before the pandemic was very fragmented in the United States,” he explained. “We are discovering the downsides… and this is falling between the cracks.”
Effects of universal healthcare
For Dworkin, there’s a big opportunity to expand health care to communities across the country, particularly to regions that have historically lacked access to health care professionals. “The reality is we don’t have universal access to healthcare – and you are really starting to see the effects of this.”
We want to hear from you!
Have you been affected by the changes in the U.S. healthcare system since the pandemic? Have you had good or bad experiences with telemedicine? Share your experiences on Facebook.