Evolving Our Relationship with Healthcare Providers in the Post-COVID-19 Era

Based on recent APCO Worldwide poll, we know what patients will expect in the post-COVID-19 future. We know that there may less appetite for patients to seek treatment for near-term chronic and/or non-COVID-19 acute medical care. We understand most Americans see the long-term viability of remote, virtual healthcare which will undoubtedly have an impact on how we seek and receive care in the future. And with a focus on healthcare providers, many of whom are putting their personal well-being at risk to treat patients and serve their communities, there is the recognition and strengthened appreciation for local hospitals, health care facilities and the medical doctors, nurses and care workers themselves.

When we think about how to Come Back Stronger, we must recognize that this new paradigm pushes alternative opportunities for care to the forefront faster than what could have been expected when 2020 began, and establishes a renewed sense of support and belief in our nation’s doctors, nurses and health workers, including the hospitals and health systems they work in. But it also raises many questions, from immediacy of adoption and the efficacy of services, to the protection of personal information critical to the provider-patient relationship.

So where does this leave our relationships with healthcare providers in a post-COVID-19 world? While our collective gratitude for those on the front lines of this pandemic is at an all-time high, will that goodwill carry over to our primary care physician, pediatricians and other specialists once we return to “normal”? How will we as patients feel comfortable seeking traditional, routine medical care? And how can providers prepare to handle these medical visits moving forward?

Here is what we can expect:

Forming virtual relationships with our healthcare providers will become standard.

By now we know that telemedicine is here to stay. To make matters a bit easier, a number of policy, regulatory and pay-based barriers to telemedicine have been removed or relaxed to meet the immediate demand. It is likely many of these changes will continue for the long term, making telemedicine much more comfortable for patients and physicians alike.

Once we emerge from the crisis, patients are going continue to demand more accessible, flexible and cost-efficient services. Simultaneously, however, patients will also have concerns about this type of care and will continue to demand true relationships with providers.

Those who spend more time at the virtual bedside will need to provide stellar follow-up and demonstrate empathy in order to come out on top.

Healthcare providers, at large and small practices, will need to make their services seamless to keep up with patient expectations or risk losing them.

Practices will need to invest in the proper technology in order to uphold the virtual care experience that patients will come to expect and trust across other online platforms. Providers will need to remain committed to advancing their virtual practices quickly and continuously to keep up with the latest technologies. And policymakers will need to ensure safety and privacy measures remain current and reflective of the ever-changing virtual landscape.

Everyone will still need to feel safe and motivated to see their healthcare providers in person when necessary.

It’s important to note that telemedicine is just one element of a comprehensive healthcare offering and will not entirely replace the relationships patients have with their physicians and practices. Now, more than ever, patients need to prioritize their overall health and wellness, and eventually, it will be safe to go to primary care providers, dermatologists and pediatricians again. Direct communication from providers to patients underscoring office visit expectations and safety tips in advance of these visits could help ease the anxiety some patients may have in proactively seeking care, while simultaneously solidifying those relationships.

As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, patients will push many healthcare providers out of their comfort zones. Healthcare providers will need to meet the needs of this new normal, be agile and focus on deepening the relationships they have with their patients—or work to establish them—to succeed in both business and in health.

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