This article was written by Linda Comp-Noto, Division President
The COVID-19 pandemic has a level of disruption unlike anything we’ve ever seen. The healthcare sector has taken center stage in our fight against an invisible enemy – our doctors, nurses, and emergency response teams on the front line for hours and even days on end. And, as if battling the virus isn’t challenging enough, their work has been further complicated by challenges with access, safety, supply chain logistics, and financial stress.
However, as with all areas of care, with challenges come opportunities. Many of the measures taken and contingencies implemented fueled rapid adoption of new technologies, processes, and innovations that will play a significant role in our future.
To gain a better understanding of the big-picture implications of COVID-19 on the healthcare industry, this first blog in our four-part series will help outline what we can do to prepare for the new normal, highlighting four aspects:
- Emotional: Mental Health
- Preventive: Contact Tracking and Tracing
- Innovation: Telehealth and Telemedicine
- Financial: Revenue Cycle Management and Claims Processing
Mental Health in Unprecedented Times
Experts claim that when disasters strike, they magnify psychological and societal burdens on the individual. As we are now witnessing, the outbreak of COVID-19 has triggered a considerable degree of fear and anxiety. According to an April 2020 Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 45% of adults (53% of women and 37% of men) say the pandemic has affected their mental health, and 19% say it has had a “major impact.” At the same time, a federal emergency hotline for people in emotional distress registered an increase of over 1,000% in April compared with the same time last year.
To date, the primary psychological impact of COVID-19 is elevated stress or anxiety. And while it affects all generations, older adults may respond more strongly to the stress of a crisis. The U.S. Census reports that 15.24%, or 42 million, of our population are over 65 years old. Being in an older age demographic and having chronic health conditions are criteria for “high-risk” vulnerability to the virus, which can compound the stress many older adults feel.
With social distancing and quarantines creating further isolation and affecting the older adult’s usual routines where they can shop, eat, and socialize, they may become more:
These intense emotions can manifest physically, or aggravate a pre-existing condition or illness. That said, the older population is likely to need support now more than ever.
Adapting Healthcare Services for Older and At-Risk Populations
As we transition into a post-pandemic world, human behavior will lean toward a touchless and more digitized healthcare system. Telemedicine and telehealth will gain traction, along with point-of-care diagnostics and video-enabled fitness. New legislation is also expected to make sweeping changes in healthcare practices and regulations to fit the new normal.
It is essential to realize that adapting how we provide healthcare services is crucial during and after the pandemic. Right now, healthcare providers have already tailored their services to quarantined, older, and at-risk populations.
At Teleperformance, we combine technology and human touch to serve and respond to over 36 million calls of U.S. health plan and pharmacy members every year. We are the compassionate, calming voice behind the channel when there are concerns about a medical diagnosis, life-saving treatment, or health-related emergency. We help ease uncertainty — where to go for treatment, how much of the cost will be covered versus what will be shouldered by the member, etc. We proudly serve Medicare members
for many of our health plans and have begun discussing additional services to stem the emotional impact of COVID-19. We have virtual outreach and check-ins to ensure that the population, especially older adults and at-risk populations, have access to medications, food, necessities, and empathy.
Furthermore, our agents are highly trained and empowered as an essential part of healthcare systems all around the world. We are currently using speech analytics to track and respond to COVID-19 questions and concerns daily on behalf of our clients. This helps to ensure each member gets what the need when they need it.
These solutions are significant now and will remain so for healthcare services in a post-pandemic landscape. Healthcare providers therefore must ensure that agents are highly trained to know how to best support people as they re-emerge from lockdowns and quarantine.
Life after COVID-19: Thinking Differently
The psychological burden of dealing with the outbreak of COVID-19 can feel overwhelming for some. Fear and anxiety about the disease can generate more acute emotions in the population at large and among certain groups in particular, such as older adults.
At the same time, healthcare is automating. Simplifying the member experience in combination with delivering compassionate care creates a powerful formula for helping to ease the emotional burden resulting in a service that comes from the heart.
Because caring for people is what we do – it’s in our DNA. And there has never been a time of greater need for mental and emotional support than right now.
No one is fighting this alone, and Teleperformance will always be here to provide comfort and support when people need it most. By taking care of one another, we will all get through this together.