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How Healthcare Embraces Digital Transformation in Face of Pandemic

Online Doctor with Female Patient

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic radically accelerated the adoption of healthcare digital strategies, making them “must-haves,” here are some examples.

Virtual care, data analytics, digital engagement — these terms are by no means new to healthcare. In fact, at the onset of 2020, they were likely initiatives of most healthcare organizations’ digital strategies, albeit in some cases as “nice to have.” 

But the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic radically accelerated the adoption of these digital strategies, making them “must-haves” for several reasons:

  • Hospitals and health systems in hard hit areas were overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, creating critical shortages of space, supplies, and staff (as evidenced by headlines of field hospitals being constructed in public parks, frontline healthcare workers lacking personal protective equipment (PPE), and mandates to delay elective procedures).
  • Providers and payers faced a high influx of inquiries to call centers while their websites were overwhelmed with traffic from individuals seeking information on changes to services, resources on available testing, health plan coverage, and locating in-network providers for care.

In this article, we’ll share how Salesforce customers and partners mobilized to adopt digital strategies that enabled them to triage and help individuals while managing resource constraints.

Leveraging virtual care pathways to assess and treat individuals

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, virtual care has been an essential technology to save lives and spare healthcare providers from system/facility overwhelm and resource depletion. Our customers quickly implemented and scaled virtual care solutions to remotely assess, route, and treat patients, directing only patients who are at-risk or critical to receive in-person care. Here are some incredible examples:

Interactive COVID-19 assessments

Women’s College Hospital in Toronto launched a COVID-19 online self-assessment in just four days. It has reduced the flow of the “worried well” from visiting the outpatient hospital and has become an invaluable resource to care facilities throughout the Province of Ontario. If the tool detects an individual as high-risk, it directs them to visit the hospital and flows the data into the patient registration system.

Digital house calls

Within 72 hours, MIMIT Health deployed telehealth capabilities. This has allowed the multi-specialty physician group to continue to provide crucial healthcare services when and where it is needed, an expectation of all patients in today’s climate. They also use chatbots to screen and triage patient inquiries. Plus, they can collaborate with care coordinators as they meet with patients online using Care Plans in Health Cloud. 

Infusing agility into resource allocation with data-driven applications

In the face of a public health crisis, we’ve seen how real-time data analytics and insights are crucial to an agile response. In areas experiencing significant volumes of COVID-19 cases, healthcare providers need to be able to view, track, and allocate resources and supplies in real time using data-driven applications.

Our technology partner Traction on Demand along with Thrive Health launched a critical care resource management app on Salesforce. The app enables hospitals and healthcare practitioners to more accurately track and distribute critical medical staff and resources, such as ventilators and PPE, to meet the immediate needs of COVID-19 response teams. 

Another great resource management example hails from Poland. As the virus spread, the public was eager to help, but didn’t know what was needed nor how to deliver. NGOs and public universities joined forces with Clorce, a Salesforce partner, on a website portal hospitals can use to make resource requests from the public. The website connects donors with coordinators for delivery of resources to the hospital. More than one third of all hospitals in Poland now use the portal.

Automating processes through digital engagement

To relieve the burden on contact centers experiencing a record number of inquiries, providers and payers have accelerated their digital engagement efforts, connecting automated processes on a single platform. 

The contact center

Salesforce created an emergency response contact center solution for emergency response teams and care management teams to help manage the surge in inquiries. Health systems like Piedmont Healthcare took it a step further, adding call center scripts and dashboards to track and triage COVID-19 patients. Within five hours of going live, Piedmont Healthcare logged and triaged over 150 calls.

Self-service channels

Online resource centers are now invaluable to getting COVID-19 information to the public. Payers and providers have launched self-assessment tools to screen individuals through a series of questions to determine appropriate care. Chatbots have also played a crucial role by answering common questions and transferring individuals to the appropriate resource (testing center, virtual care, 911).

Training and onboarding

Preexisting staffing shortages have come to light in the face of the pandemic, stepping up the race to hire and onboard healthcare workers. On-demand, learning platforms up-skill new staff quickly and at scale. This streamlines distribution of the latest safety and testing protocols and ensures certification.

A catalyst for change

The COVID-19 pandemic has served as a catalyst for change in healthcare-accelerating adoption of trends like telehealth, virtual care, and digital engagement. 

Looking back on this mobilization in the first three months of this pandemic, what lessons can we bring into the next 12-18 months and beyond as we navigate the next phase of this pandemic? 

Certainly healthcare systems around the globe will need to reimagine supply chains to prepare for future crises. Organizations will also need to rethink their longer-term strategy for care delivery and scale up virtual care pathways for more patient populations. 

Interoperability and seamless data sharing will be essential to bolster the real-time analytics needed to continuously reevaluate for new stresses and for agile resource allocation and response. 

And finally, as organizations leverage their data, it’s vital to do so with a systems’ perspective in mind; analyzing the fundamental components of providing care (medical staff, supplies, and space) in a holistic view so the care can be delivered to the right person at the right time in the right setting.

Salesforce is offering a care response solution for healthcare and life science organizations impacted by COVID-19. The solution can be deployed quickly and at no charge for six months to immediately aid those in need.

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