The COVID-19 virus isn’t making its exit anytime soon. Although life has returned somewhat to “normal” with the approval and distribution of three highly effective vaccines, the twice-as-contagious Delta variant has put more than 90,000 coronavirus patients in hospitals nationwide. The United States is averaging more than 800 newly reported COVID-19 deaths a day, about twice as many as in early August.

In May 2021, the U.S. reported the lowest number of new COVID-19 cases in nearly a year, with new infections dropping to just under 180,000. On August 23, there were 697,803 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases to approximately 212,500,000. Many states in the south, including Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, are contending with their most serious outbreaks of the pandemic. 

COVID-19 and Digital Technology 

Digital technology was widely used in the healthcare industry before the COVID-19 pandemic, but solutions such as telehealth, remote patient monitoring and business intelligence and analytics platforms have grown in popularity. According to one survey of nearly 400 healthcare executives across six countries, 93 percent report that their organization is innovating with an urgency and call to action this year, and 81 percent say the pace of digital transformation for their organization is accelerating. 

Previous research found that a high percentage of patients seek providers with technology that offers digital scheduling, online payment options, portal and engagement capabilities and results reporting tools. Roughly 40 percent of Gen Z patients prefer digital or virtual experiences with medical professionals, and approximately 90 percent of patients report that they don’t feel obligated to stay with healthcare providers who don’t deliver an overall satisfactory digital experience. 

Advantages of Digital Technologies

There are barriers to digital strategies for healthcare providers, including ensuring cybersecurity/privacy, cost, having the right talent and partners and the ability to scale. However, hospitals, health systems and physician practices that overcome these obstacles have the potential to achieve benefits for both clinicians and patients, including:

  • Improved patient care
  • Enhanced public-health education and communication
  • Decreased amount of time necessary to complete certain administrative tasks
  • Improved ability to deliver personalized interactions with patients
  • Reduced outbound calls through automated communication of laboratory results
  • Advanced capability to improve the process of identifying populations for whom feedback is most needed, including those negatively affected by SDOH
  • Increased patient engagement
  • Facilitation of rapid responses
  • Streamlined patient registration, insurance verification, check-in and payment
  • Improved identification of acquisition targets that match with strategic, operational and financial goals
  • Enhanced infrastructure for population-health initiatives
  • Support of consumer-directed care and value-based models 

The advantages for healthcare providers in employing digital technology are also financial. More than half of businesses that have invested in new digital technology during the pandemic have already seen a return on investment (ROI).  

The Many Uses of Digital Technology in Healthcare 

Digital technology solutions offer healthcare providers a myriad of ways to optimize their operations. For example, online appointment scheduling, patient portals and electronic forms and signing give providers a higher level of accuracy, enhanced patient engagement, increased patient privacy and improved patient flow. 

As the World Health Organization (WHO) notes, digital health technology has been deployed to address the most urgent needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, including in the immediate outbreak response and later in impact mitigation. Healthcare payers use digital technology to promote screening, connect patients with care access and drive member education and public health messaging. 

Adopting effective, contactless billing and payment options help to keep patients safe, engaged and informed while helping providers run a financially strong healthcare organization. Online appointment scheduling can be used to minimize patient no-shows and cancellations, which is especially important for providers as research shows that the average time for a patient to complete a scheduling call is 8.1 minutes. 

An oft-used digital technology for healthcare providers attempting to streamline operations with a reduced team of staff members is HIPAA-compliant, automated two-way text messaging. In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, providers can use it to automatically notify patients of test results, allowing them to quickly take action, whether positive or negative. 

Reminding patients of upcoming clinical appointments, laboratory monitoring and other scheduled services may be associated with improved efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare, and systematic reviews have shown that reminders are associated with reduced missed primary and specialty care appointments, increased delivery of preventive services, improved prescription refill rates and enhanced laboratory monitoring. 

At Providertech, the eTest Results Delivery capabilities of our secure and HIPAA-compliant CareX messaging platform enable healthcare providers to automate and safely notify patients of flu, COVID-19 and other lab results faster by providing them with tracking status of test results and alerting them of the outcome as soon as they are signed off. This minimizes “phone tag” between patients and staff, reduces unnecessary office visits and streamlines virtual follow-up after results delivery.

Learn how we can help you deliver COVID-19, flu and other test results faster via secure text.