AI tools and health tech can be used to help the healthcare system treat patients.
Srulik Dvorsky, BSc
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has laid bare the challenging economics at work in every hospital in the US. Doctors, and their colleagues of nurses, medical staff, and administration, all now face unique challenges with devastating losses in revenue across the entire healthcare delivery system.
One in four rural hospitals are at risk for closure. A recent letter to congress from the National Rural Health Association called for immediate relief and the ability to modify legislation and access new emergency funding streams. On the whole, the American Hospital Association has released statistics noting that from March 1 to June 30, hospitals will lose $202.6 billion, or an average of $50.7 billion per month.
The economic challenge exists in nearly every healthcare setting. In both rural and urban settings, doctors who provide non-emergency and elective care have been told to cease. This has created a revenue gap for hospitals and practices.
Even local medical practices are at risk. A recent New York Times story added that “as many as 60,000 physicians in family medicine may no longer be working in their practices by June because of the pandemic.”
With the top of the revenue funnel closed, hospital and healthcare finances are precarious. Even as care returns to normal in some places in the US, the damage has been done.
Whether caring for chronic care patients or even COVID-impacted ones, identifying revenues to cover the cost of care is essential. Many hospitals and medical practices employ financial navigators to help patients identify additional charitable and governmental funding streams to cover the cost of care. However, it's these same financial navigators who have been sent to work remotely during the pandemic.
Looking ahead, doctors will still want to practice medicine in a way that puts patients first and keeps cost-concerns a distant second. To do so, we need to equip the healthcare practice administration staff with the tools they need to recover revenues using any and all available resources.
Some of these funding streams come from pharmaceutical companies who provide discounted medicines and support for chronic care patients—Abbvie has provided millions as has Pfizer. Other funding comes from national and local philanthropies. AI software can be used to search patient assistance programs every day to help navigators recover new revenues for chronic or unfunded care.
As many as 9 million Americans may have lost not only their job, but also their health insurance. While many may be able to continue care through COBRA, it often is far more costly—and millions are not eligible for COBRA as they obtained coverage on their own.
Regardless of the available coverage, doctors will need to proceed with providing the best healthcare possible to patients as they return. Our hope is that AI tools and the healthcare system can welcome back these patients. We must ensure that providing healthcare doesn’t create a new financial burden that piles on top of the COVID-related losses already incurred.
Srulik Dvorsky, BSc, is the co-founder and chief executive officer of TailorMed. The presented analysis reflects hisviews, not necessarily those of the publication.
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