There are significant challenges facing both new and long-established healthcare practices in 2020. But some of this year’s most daunting challenges are mitigated by the fact that practical and effective ways to overcome them already exist. For many practices, it is just a matter of adopting the newer technologies which will deliver innovative solutions and beneficial features.
Administrative and Front Office Tasks
Approximately 800 U.S. healthcare providers were surveyed to take their temperature regarding their biggest 2020 challenges. Around 70 percent cited administrative difficulties, and the need for integrated technologies to make practices more profitable and productive. But the survey also revealed that many of those same practices don’t yet utilize labor-saving technologies like electronic health records. Meanwhile, 25 percent are eager to switch tech vendors this year, and nearly half of respondents indicated that they’ll start using new technologies before the end of the year. That may help resolve another serious problem, namely physician burnout. The data showed a high correlation between administrators who feel overwhelmed and doctors at risk of burnout.
Insurance reimbursements and patient collections are also straining healthcare practices. A majority of those asked said that they have seen a decrease in reimbursements. That’s happening at a time when patients are having more trouble paying their bills, since they must shoulder a greater share of healthcare costs. Research confirms that the situation is only getting worse. Around 50 percent of patients carried unpaid balances for medical expenses in 2015. In the coming months the figure is expected to hit 95 percent. That’s nearly twice what it was just five years ago. Thankfully, software solutions are available that can have a measurable impact on revenue collections. A well-designed turnkey payment system can, for example, shorten the revenue cycle while giving patients manageable options for repaying healthcare practices.
Part of the difficulty in collecting revenues is that many patients fail to engage with their healthcare providers in meaningful, sustainable ways. But there are technologies specifically designed to enhance interactive patient/provider communication. Ironically, about half of the practices that struggle with a lack of engagement don’t utilize those patient engagement solutions. Available innovations include HIPAA-compliant online patient portals, mobile apps, and telemedicine delivery systems. The good news is that many practices do plan to implement such technologies in the coming year. It’s also encouraging that CMS has just expanded its reimbursement for telemedicine services.
Other Anticipated Challenges
While AI and machine learning will offer more futuristic solutions for healthcare in 2020, those will likely be accompanied by their own challenges. When using those technologies, healthcare practices will need to be increasingly vigilant about HIPAA compliance, security of sensitive data, and other matters of patient privacy. Healthcare apps, smartphones, and other gadgets are prime targets for hackers and data thieves. Devices like Amazon’s Alexa, that can inadvertently eavesdrop on confidential conversations, also need to be vigilantly secured. So 2020 will be an important year for upgraded security mandates, protocols, and regulations to safeguard practices and patients. But as security becomes more robust, that will enable a new era of healthcare interoperability. That could be a game-changing milestone with positive long-term implications and benefits for all healthcare practices.