COVID-19 May Have Just Saved US Healthcare


There’s nothing like a good crisis to cause a re-evaluation of how we do things. While any epidemic is sure to stress the health system of just about any country, in the United States we needed to be jarred out of our comfort zone to re-think how we do things and how we more efficiently deliver healthcare services to the population.

While no one is doubting the dedication of our doctors and nurses or the many others involved in the delivery of health services, we have unfortunately inherited a broken legacy system from the post-war 1940s that has struggled to contain costs, and to provide healthcare services to all who need them. Unrealistic vertical demand for health services has combined with corruption and mass profit taking by certain parts of the system that has led to huge inefficiencies that divert scarce funds away from where they are needed. It has also highlighted the horrific imbalance of access to health services. One only has to look at the COVID death rates between rich and poor Americans to realize that something is very wrong. 
 
Medical malpractice insurance doubles the costs of a medical procedure, while an overly complex and bureaucratic medical billing and insurance system creams a good percentage off the top of available funds. Reimbursement delays from insurance and patients, neither of whom can figure this stuff out compound losses, however it is the exorbitant costs of pharmaceutical drugs in the US that sucks the life out of the system. It is actually cheaper for Americans to fly to the other side of the world to purchase their US and European manufactured drugs than it is to buy them with insurance at home. This is a subject I wrote about last year to much popular acclaim in a three part story on Medical Tourism.
 
But public health is a 'public good' to all of us. There is an economic, social, and moral utility for the person sat next to me on the subway or an aircraft to be healthy and disease free for my own benefit, and those I work and live with. Surely this is a lesson we should have learned in the 19th century with Typhoid and other communicable diseases. Yet our national approach to pandemic disease control, appears to be closer to a King in the Middles Ages trying to containing the Black Death, than to 21st century science-based pandemic disease control - even accounting for the fact that some of our elected representatives plainly flunked out of their middle school science classes. Lets face it, US healthcare is in serious trouble. The needless deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, is just a symptomatic expression of much bigger structural problems in our health system. 
 



 
In fact, COVID-19 may have just saved US Healthcare from its swan dive – and a spiraling decline of rising costs, and diminishing reimbursement rates, while much of the population is denied access. In the last decade hospitals have frantically engaged in massive cost-shifting between federal, state, IHS, and insurance systems to try and stay afloat. Many haven’t, and that has been devastating for the rural communities they once served. Let’s face it, the system has been broken for a quite a while, and we have done very little about fixing it. COVID-19 however, has changed that!

The truly massive growth in telehealth and telemedicine since February has been amazing. Doctors and nurses love it, patients love it, and it keeps the slightly sick away from those who may be highly contagious and in need of radical medical intervention. Both primary care and specialist physicians have commented how many more patients they can see per hour using video technology, but there are things that we need to fix.

This session looks at what the future of digital healthcare will be, post-COVID, using new tools, new approaches and improved broader access to health services. It will examine necessary changes to regulation, patient identity verification, cybersecurity and the rise of healthcare IoT including wearables.

Hear from two national experts as they share their thoughts for the future of US healthcare.


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