This year saw major changes for the healthcare industry, including the implementation of social-distancing protocols to keep patients and providers safe and an astronomical rise in demand for telehealth in turn.
"If I think of 2020, obviously the pandemic dominated [the year] for all of us," said Megan Callahan, VP of healthcare at Lyft, in an interview with Healthcare IT News.
Callahan pointed to Lyft's initiatives delivering essential supplies and transporting healthcare workers as two of the company's main healthcare achievements in 2020, noting that the organization also announced its integration within the Epic electronic health record this October.
It's hard to say precisely what's around the corner for digital health. Suffice it to say no one could have seen this year's events coming. But Callahan has a few ideas of what to expect:
- COVID-19 vaccine access and distribution will have lasting impacts.
Many have questions about the logistics of getting vaccines into the hands (and arms) of the people who need them.
"To date there hasn't been a lot of focus on last-mile access," said Callahan. Calling the roll-out "the largest logistics challenge since WWII," she noted that pharmacies and providers will be central to Americans' lives.
Callahan also noted drivers as critical to the U.S. infrastructure, particularly given fears around public transit, and that Lyft is "talking to policymakers about getting them priority access to the vaccine."
- Telehealth isn't going anywhere.
"We've obviously seen the rise of new digital front doors with telehealth. We're not going to go back from that," said Callahan.
A question for Lyft, she said, will be how to get supplies, technology and caregivers into homes, and how it can work with its healthcare partners on integrating with the telehealth ecosystem.
- There will be an uptake in demand for healthcare services.
As we all know, utilization rates for nonurgent services took a dip during the pandemic, especially in the spring and summer.
Once vaccines are widely distributed, Callahan said, she expects demand to go back up.
"To me, that means access to reliable and affordable transportation is going to be even more important," she said.
There "won't be much respite" for those in the healthcare industry, she said, going from the COVID-19 vaccine rollout to the pent-up need for services – especially neglected routine care like mammograms or checkups.
"I don't think I'm alone as an American hoping that as things resume, we at least find something that resembles our old world," Callahan said.
Taking Stock of Progress and Looking Ahead
This December, we look back at a challenging year – and forward to what we hope is a better, stronger, more connected and resilient healthcare ecosystem.