Pandemic has created this ‘permanent’ improvement in medicine: healthcare CEO

Zooming in on weddings, al fresco dining in the dead of winter, shows and concerts leading up — these pandemic-related trends are unlikely to last, at least beyond a few dedicated outliers.

But a high-stakes medical trend that could save lives and cut costs will persist long after the COVID pandemic, says Jonathan Bush, CEO of a healthcare startup called Zus Health. The explosion of telemedicine during the pandemic has brought “permanent” improvement in the acquisition and sorting of medical data that could affect the treatment of the vast majority of conditions, Bush told Yahoo Finance in a new interview.

Electronic communication between a patient and a doctor offers a huge opportunity for detailed and actionable data, Bush said.

“The idea of ​​messaging a care team or a provider is actually better documentation than even the most granular set of drop-down menus in an electronic medical record,” Bush said. “Because we got good at machine-reading language and pattern finding.”

“Getting all that chatter over a long period of time, especially about the 80% of our healthcare that is behavior-rooted disease,” he said. “That chatter being machine-readable, as opposed to lost in the story between you and your doctor as you sit naked on the waxed paper — this improvement is permanent.”

For decades, hospitals saved patient information on paper records that proved difficult to retain an individual’s medical details and share them with other physicians.

In 2009, as part of then-President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package in the aftermath of the Great Recession, the HITECH Act encouraged hospitals to keep electronic medical records and adoption increased dramatically.

Nearly 90% of hospitals store patient information on electronic records, according to a 2019 Centers for Disease Control study.

But the explosion of telemedicine during the pandemic expands the potential for recording patient data, because a significant portion of patient-doctor interaction occurs online, Bush said.

The use of telemedicine has increased dramatically during the pandemic. In 2020, the share of Medicare visits conducted via telemedicine increased 63-fold, from about 840,000 in 2019 to 52.7 million the following year, according to a report by the US Department of Health and Human Resources. Social services.

By February 2021, telemedicine appointments had stabilized but still accounted for a 38 times larger share of U.S. insurance claims than before the pandemic, according to a report by McKinsey & Company.

The rise of virtual doctor appointments has revealed that much of the patient-doctor relationship can be conducted more efficiently and cost-effectively online, said Bush, who chairs the company’s board of directors. health care delivery and Firefly Health insurance.

In this Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, photo, Dr. Terry Rabinowitz, right, talks with nurse Leslie Orelup at the Helen Porter Nursing Home in Burlington, Vt. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

“It’s absolutely true that the percentage of things that can be done as well or better – significantly better at any cost – turn out to be much cheaper,” he said. “It exploded.”

Of course, some exams and treatments must take place in person, Bush said.

Many people in the United States have delayed or forgone surgeries during the pandemic. Stanford University researchers found a 48% decrease in the number of surgeries performed in the United States in the seven weeks following mid-March 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.

But by the end of 2020, the number of surgeries was only 10% lower than 2019 levels, the researchers found.

“There are operations that we have postponed,” Bush said. “‘My hip hurts, I want a new one’ or whatever… There are some things that of course have to go back.”

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