The COVID-19 pandemic has been called the world’s largest forced proof of concept for collaboration technologies. Last spring, organizations across industries scrambled to deploy collaboration suites and get workers up and running from their homes. Already, these technologies are beginning to transform company cultures and workflows.
Many frontline healthcare workers, of course, have bravely donned their personal protective equipment and stayed in the field to deliver care. But collaboration technologies have revolutionized the work of a large number of clinicians and other healthcare workers, and we expect these solutions to have a lasting impact.
Here are five predictions we feel confident making about the future of collaboration in healthcare:
Telehealth Stays Strong
Before the pandemic, telehealth reimbursement regulations were an inscrutable hodgepodge, with different states allowing different healthcare services to be delivered remotely. And in many cases, this meant that very few types of care were reimbursable through telehealth. The CARES Act, passed in the early days of the pandemic, changed all of that — making telehealth not only reimbursable for many types of care, but actually making it the preferred method of care delivery.
Regulations weren’t the only thing holding telehealth back before last year. Many providers were simply hesitant to adopt new and unfamiliar technologies and workflows. But COVID restrictions meant either getting on board with telehealth or losing virtually all income; predictably, most providers opted for the latter.
With these adoption obstacles eliminated (and with patients having tasted the convenience of remote care), we expect telehealth to continue to grow in the coming years.
Adoption Resistance Is Reduced Among Back-Office Workers
When rolling out any new technology, it’s always a challenge to gain immediate, widespread adoption among users. But just as with clinicians and telehealth solutions, back-office healthcare employees experienced a sort of forced adoption of collaboration tools over the past year. Not only that, but many people have become accustomed to using video collaboration and persistent chat tools in their own lives to maintain social connections. This consumerization of collaboration technology will pay dividends as healthcare organizations find less resistance to new solutions in the coming years.
Specialists Expand Their Reach
Healthcare specialists are able to command fees commensurate with their limited supply and the high demand for their services. But historically, most specialists have been able to draw only on a limited geographic area for patients, as most people are unwilling to drive several hours for a series of consultations and follow-up appointments. However, collaboration technologies can move these more routine appointments to a remote setting, opening up new territory for in-demand providers.
Communication Evolves Beyond Email
As collaboration suites become more fully ingrained in the operations of an organization, workers tend to move communication away from email and into more seamless chat- and teams-based messaging. In fact, analysis from Deloitte reveals that since the start of lockdown, 75 percent of office workers have used at least two new types of technology for work.
Workers Demand Flexibility
While some business-side employees can’t wait to get back into the office, others are enjoying the lack of a commute, extra time with family and the ability to be productive on their own schedules. Now that collaboration solutions have been widely deployed and adopted in many healthcare systems, there will be pressure on employers to use these tools to provide workplace flexibility — even after the end of the pandemic. It is up to individual organizations to set their own policies, of course, but those that fail to offer options to their employees may find themselves missing out on top talent.