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How Healthcare Technology Investments Can Help Transition Into the Next Normal and Beyond

Female doctor looking a tablet - healthcare technology
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Public health agencies and healthcare providers can repurpose the healthcare technology developed during the pandemic to streamline their processes and workflows.

The Biden administration has shifted its vaccination strategy from mass vaccination sites to smaller settings as the pace of the vaccine rollout continues to slow in the U.S. But incentives like free lottery tickets or vouchers for free tickets to sporting events along with the FDA recently authorizing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use in those aged 12-15 are propelling the continued effort to vaccinate as many people as possible.

While many cities and countries across the globe are at different stages of their response, the healthcare technology adopted won’t go to waste. Here are five ways pandemic-related technology investments can set up organizations for both short- and long-term success.

Coordinated reopening efforts

After having been closed or operating at reduced capacities since the start of the pandemic, many cities and businesses are loosening restrictions and even announcing reopening dates like Chicago and New York City have. In order to keep people safe, public health agencies and private organizations alike are balancing the effort to keep people safe during reopening while keeping individuals’ health information like vaccination status or negative COVID-19 results private.

The creation of vaccine passports or health credentials is a hotly debated topic but is something many organizations and public health agencies across the country have begun to implement in an effort to support safe reopening campaigns. New York City has developed the Excelsior Pass, which connects to existing systems and allows individuals to show proof of vaccination or of a negative COVID-19 test. The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) app will also soon double as a vaccine passport. Salesforce has even weighed in by issuing ethical considerations for implementing digital health credentials. Whether or not these credentials become a part of a public or private organization’s reopening efforts, those who initiated vaccine management programs using platforms like Vaccine Cloud have the technology available to help people navigate the next normal.

How do we ensure healthcare technology innovations continue post-pandemic?

Many government agencies and health systems have made substantial investments in health technology during the pandemic – contact tracing, critical resource management, and most recently – vaccine management. How do we ensure those and other innovations persist in the next normal?

Healthcare technology powers ongoing contact-tracing

Contact tracing has been the centerpiece of communicative disease control in public health for decades. But as COVID-19 began to quickly spread across the world, many public health agencies had to quickly replace their pen-and-paper contact tracing methods in favor of technology platforms that could support the enormous effort. Moving forward, those same platforms can now help control future outbreaks of other infectious diseases — the flu, measles, ebola, and syphilis, for example — more easily, communicate information with the public about the outbreak more broadly, and mobilize mass vaccination efforts to combat those outbreaks more quickly.

Empowering contact center agents to deliver better experiences

Reimagining the employee experience for service agents can unlock better experiences for healthcare consumers overall. Call centers traditionally prioritize average handling time and speed to answer, making it difficult for agents to provide the personalized experience healthcare consumers expect. The metrics ignore quality and overwork agents, ultimately leading to decreased performance, decreased job satisfaction, and high turnover rates.

Tools enable agents to provide personalized interactions and streamline access to care, improving the work environment for agents.

With the robust capabilities found within healthcare technology platforms supporting vaccine management, organizations can develop new ways of measuring success while improving service delivery. Empowering service agents with digital engagement capabilities of the contact center can create a great patient experience at scale. These tools enable agents to provide personalized interactions and streamline access to care, improving the work environment for agents which can help foster better relationships with healthcare consumers. This cycle can help build trust which can translate to better patient engagement and health outcomes moving forward.

Healthcare technology supports more integrated care

Successful vaccine management requires an efficient coordination of data, processes, and people. Healthcare technology platforms and application programming interfaces (APIs) were important in standing up vaccine management programs because of their ability to integrate critical data across siloed electronic health records (EHRs), supply chain management systems, and immunization information systems.

Removing … friction means team members spend less time performing administrative tasks or cross-checking information.

Moving forward, these system integrations have the power to improve employee workflows and improve patient and customer experiences by reducing redundancies and creating more seamless links between different patient care teams, be they behavioral, social, or medical. By connecting different systems within or across organizations, team members have easier access to real-time data. Removing this point of friction means team members spend less time performing administrative tasks or cross-checking information between different departments and systems and more time providing care or developing new and innovative solutions.

Supports agility to tackle future emergencies

Once we’ve recovered and realigned from this pandemic, we will need to prepare for the next one. The Margolis Center for Health Policy at Duke University has recommended implementing a preparedness infrastructure to not only contain the COVID-19 outbreak but to combat and predict the next public health crisis. Stronger public-private coordination on data sharing and bolstering the supply chain are critical to getting ready for the next pandemic. Using data as a platform, we can monitor disease indicators in, or near, real-time to detect outbreaks of disease earlier than would otherwise be possible with traditional public health methods. Identifying illness clusters within the community early can allow agencies to mobilize a rapid response, thereby reducing morbidity and mortality. If we can harness the industry’s data and put it to action using artificial intelligence (AI), we will be able to flag irregular symptoms in patients from a future potential pandemic, and automatically alert medical institutions weeks earlier to provide guidance to the public and begin developing a cure.

The pandemic has shed light on what we can accomplish as a society and the immense capability of the science and healthcare community.

There has never been a better time to reimagine the technology needed to support the services of public health agencies and healthcare providers. Consideration of using a cloud platform that can rapidly be configured to deliver end-to-end solutions is now not only possible but essential. Public health agencies and healthcare providers across the country have been able to demonstrate the art of the possible over the last year with emergency response, contact tracing, and vaccine management solutions all powered by a single platform.

The pandemic has shed light on what we can accomplish as a society and the immense capability of the science and healthcare community. One lesson we’ve learned and will certainly take forward is the importance of having the right healthcare technology infrastructure and resources in place to ensure our teams can do their jobs safely, supporting them in their day-to-day work (with or without a pandemic unfolding), and leveraging that framework to deliver personalized care and experiences more effectively.

Look into the future of health IT in a post-COVID world

Learn more about the role of technology in shaping the future of healthcare by watching, u0022Leveraging Pandemic Investments to Improve Well-being in a Post-COVID-19 World.u0022

Sean Kennedy GM and VP, Global Public Sector Health

As GM/VP of the Global Public Sector Health vertical at Salesforce, Sean brings market-leading public health, healthcare, and biomedical research solutions to market. He also serves as the VP of Interoperability for Healthcare and Life Sciences where he promotes internal alignment to prevailing standards and emerging approaches to sharing data.

More by Sean Kennedy

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