As Fast as the Slowest Person...

As a child growing up in Seattle, I was fortunate to travel with my family. We went to the Bay Area to visit my grandmother all the time. We escaped dreary winters to Scottsdale, AZ, and Palm Springs, CA. We even visited Israel with a stopover in Copenhagen for Spring Break when I was 10 years old.

A memorable refrain of every trip was my father saying, "We only go as fast as the slowest person."

At one point, maybe on that infamous Israel trip, I retorted about my very slow sister, "if we go that slow, we will never get there."

To which my father responded, "we will get there eventually."

2019 had many articles and blogs bemoaning the slow adoption of technology within the healthcare sector. The hospital CIO, Health System Executive, or Physician's common refrain was, "this really does not work for my patients."

Alternatively, the salesperson would hear, "once you have proven an ROI, I will be interested."

Change within the Healthcare IT landscape was certainly moving "as fast as the slowest person."

Organizations and moonshot movements have been and are moving the needle of adoption within Healthcare.

Telemedicine and remote care tools are held up as the case study for COVID-19 digital health care delivery achievement.

A survey conducted by Morning Consult and sponsored by the Better Medicare Alliance of more than 1,000 seniors found 52% are comfortable using telehealth for their healthcare, with 30% uncomfortable and another 18% unsure. 91% said they had a favorable experience with telehealth, and 78% added they plan to do so again.

In January, Fair Health reported increased telehealth claims by 3,060% nationally from October 2019 to October 2020. The telehealth share of claims rose 10.6 % nationally, Fair Health said, from 5.07% in September 2020 to 5.61% the following month.

Data like this has led experts worldwide to point to COVID-19 as the turning point for digital health.

The reality is that COVID-19 necessitated a shift to telemedicine and remote health. Now that the convenience is here, why give it up.

EMR adoption took congressional intervention and cash payments. Ultimately, the specter of a global pandemic forced the adoption of telemedicine and remote care.

The last decade has shown an immense change in the landscape of Healthcare. Urgent care flourished, primary care physicians saw ever declining visit volumes, and consolidation ruled the day.

While this immense change happened, we learned two important lessons:

1. When presented with two options, the patient most likely will take the easiest.

2. Change in Healthcare only happens for a reason.

As we applaud the COVID-19 (or soon to be post-COVID-19) rapidly changing landscape and our newfound desire to change, did anyone ask the physicians?

Are they ready to take the next steps into true digital health?

Who is paying for all of this?

Just like the family vacations of my youth, Healthcare will get there eventually.

Who will drive the change, the patient or the physician?

Are we ready if it is the former and not the latter?

Etan Walls is Principal of Strong Walls Consulting and author of the upcoming book The Mega Factory of Healthcare. Strong Walls Consulting provides operational, strategic, and tactical assistance to healthcare organizations, large and small. Previously, Mr. Walls was the COO of the largest independent outpatient Pediatric group in the United States. He has mentored many startup Healthcare IT organizations with his brand of innovative, forward-thinking leadership. All inquiries should go to etanwalls@gmail.com