3 Big Challenges Facing the Health Care Industry Beyond the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic forever changed America’s health care system, affecting everything from how hospitals and clinics treat and serve patients to what methods and mediums patients and physicians use to interact.
While pandemic-related restrictions led to an explosion in telehealth and related medical services, whether these alternatives offer the same level of care as a traditional clinic or health care setting remains unclear.
This is just one example of many challenges today’s health care providers, employees and patients are dealing with as technological innovations, staffing issues and pandemic-related repercussions continue to change the face of today’s health care industry. Some of the most notable and pertinent challenges affecting the industry also include:
1. Cybersecurity Concerns
The pandemic led to an uptick in telemedicine and telehealth visits. While data and security breaches have long been problematic for health care providers, the shift toward online care has only exacerbated cybersecurity concerns.
To improve cybersecurity, health care organizations must carefully manage and maintain the devices they use that contain sensitive or private patient information and data. They should also monitor devices and online channels regularly, taking extra steps to encrypt all sensitive patient data.
A patient’s data might appear in different places and in different forms — among them patient health care records, medical images and payroll records. While having access to all this patient data can help improve patient outcomes, it can also expose private information to the wrong parties or sources.
Per cybersecurity company Critical Insights, cybersecurity breaches hit a peak in 2021 as clinics and hospitals continued to battle the stresses brought on by the pandemic.
To protect from and limit data breaches, health care organizations must remain cognizant of not only their own cybersecurity efforts, but also those of any third-party vendors with which they partner.
2. Telehealth Patient Experience Quality Issues
Consumer use of telehealth services skyrocketed in recent years, but questions abound about whether physicians offer the same high level of care in virtual meetings that they do in person. Some medical conditions are difficult or even impossible to diagnose without an in-person consultation. Some patients, including many older adults, also have a hard time using technology, and this can create additional hardships for these patients.
Accessibility issues also make it difficult for members of rural communities to use telehealth services. In some areas, telehealth services simply are not available. In others, patients might lack internet access, making online appointments virtually impossible.
3. Price Transparency Concerns
Price transparency is another significant health care concern impacting all facets of the industry. Unclear pricing creates issues for patients who might face sudden, substantial medical bills. It also creates challenges when patients are late making payments because they are unclear on how much they owe.
This, in turn, creates challenges for medical providers who do not receive patient payments on time, creating a problematic cycle that can be tough to break.
To help combat these issues, a new rule took effect in July 2022 that requires health insurers to disclose the prices they negotiated with participating providers. The Transparency in Coverage Final Rule also requires insurers to publicize how much the insurer pays for a particular service. However, many providers have yet to comply with these guidelines.
Benefits of Recognizing & Addressing Challenges
Recognizing the biggest issues impacting today’s health care industry and implementing plans and procedures that help put patients at ease helps medical providers attract and retain patients.
It also helps medical providers understand and address modern challenges head on while helping patients develop a better understanding of the service side of the medical field.
Finally, it helps today’s health care workers develop a broader understanding of societal concerns, particularly regarding quality of the medical care they provide.
Failing to consider these widespread industry issues and concerns can hurt both patients and profits.
Taking the time to address them leads to enhanced patient privacy, better patient loyalty and, ultimately, improved patient experience and outcomes.