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COVID-19: Driving a New Normal for Healthcare, A Cognizant POV

Digital front doors and transparency a new normal for healthcare?

U.S. healthcare is no stranger to an environment of continuous change and has not been spared the effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic in 2020. The unique circumstances born from the need for social distancing during the pandemic have accelerated healthcare consumers' demands for digital transformation. The ask comes from all healthcare continuum vantage points – patients, providers, payers, and vendors. Healthcare must change its practices to allow for more seamless digital interactions to meet these demands.

As with other service industry sectors, healthcare consumers want the option to access their health services virtually – evidenced by an increase from an 11% utilization of virtual visits in 2019 to over 45% in 2020. Some larger health systems have made this transition without significant challenges, expanding telehealth contracts, and receiving service reimbursements for both commercial and federally funded insurance types. However, many providers were faced with the decision to either suspend their practice or invest in digital platforms or services to offer virtual visits. Cognizant's Core Admin Solutions support providers' internal processes to offer telehealth and payers and providers in efficiently & quickly submitting process associated claims and authorizations via Trizetto's Touchless Authorization Processing (TTAP). The demand for telehealth has become an independent demand from the initial catalyst of social isolation and continues to be at the forefront of patient expectations. Even the senior population is thought to have few barriers to accessing virtual care, with 84% of sampled senior consumers stating they do not have any technical challenges in attending a virtual appointment with their doctor. With the remote operation of the doctor's visit comes the corresponding demand for total digital transformation; payment processing, e-prescription writing, prescription home delivery, and remote patient monitoring. Multi-faceted companies, like Cognizant, offer a variety of bundled or unbundled services and platforms to help healthcare providers and payers address the increased demands for digital interactions. This new digitization is also thought to reduce costs by increasing care coordination, administration, and manufacturing efficiency.

Providers and Payers are finding that digital products also offer the opportunity to clinically manage their patients and members remotely, with IoT, remote monitoring devices, and health wearables. The consumer can utilize various devices, measuring vitals, health coaching through AI, and tracking other metrics related to health risk factors. 65% of consumers utilize some type of wearable. With this percentage of adoption and available data, providers and payers have an exciting opportunity to address their patients' and members' health outside of the doctor's office. Vendors offer bundled platforms or paired digital services to collect, aggregate, and analyze the patient/member data to facilitate care management efforts by both their clinicians and their health plans. Though this digitization also requires a financial investment from the organizations, the vendors promise a visible ROI in cost savings and improved health outcomes.  

Driving the transformation

Regulatory bodies have been pushing healthcare providers and payers towards a digital transformation, most recently with the ONC Cure's Act Final Rule. The rule was created to increase interoperability and access to consumer's own health information. Though the rule pushes providers and payers towards the shared goal of an enhanced patient experience, compliance with these requirements will come at a cost. By 2021 payers will be required to allow consumers access to all their claims and health information and to develop APIs to share data with other organizations and regulatory bodies. Though the compliance will be a financial investment for providers and payers, vendors such as Cognizant can implement or offer platforms to achieve such price transparency.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has similarly taken steps to guide providers and payers towards a better patient experience. In the 2021 Medicare Advantage Final Rule, CMS announced a change to its CMS Star Ratings measures, increasing the weight of the patient experience metrics. Payers must now invest more heavily in their consumer requirements – digital transformation to achieve an end-user-friendly suite of digital platforms. Cognizant addresses another of these drivers by offering several applications and platforms that facilitate both back-end processes and consumer-facing platforms in assisting payers in meeting heightened digital demands from their consumers. Cognizant's continued investment in Trizetto products offers payers such an opportunity for an enhanced user experience with an automated enrollment platform. Such an offering would make a payer more attractive in the upcoming Medicare Advantage and ACA Marketplace OEP (open enrollment period).

Healthcare organizations are also feeling the pressure for change from InsurTech companies and their partnerships with healthcare providers. These initiatives are attracting members and patients with their omni-channel user interfaces and strategic focus on digital platforms and processes.

Product Suites to Achieve the New Normal

Amongst Cognizant's comprehensive suite of product offerings, their digital healthcare platforms and services support over 200 million lives in the U.S. Payers and providers alike have the option to select a la carte products or bundled services to meet the changing regulatory requirements and evolving demands of their consumer and patient bases. Cognizant continues to exact leadership and be forward-thinking in its current and planned digital transformation offerings and continued investment in Trizetto Healthcare Products ($100m):

  • Core Payer and TPA admin solutions, for claims processing and management
  • Payer-provider solutions, for facilitating contract pricing and modeling and payment administration. Cognizant has planned offerings for onboarding and credentialing
  • Government and Quality Solutions, for enrollment and encounter data management, and support of quality rating measures and reporting. Cognizant is planning offerings for enhanced care coordination
  • Care Solutions, for clinical and utilization management and value-based benefits. Cognizant is planning offerings for for automated authorization and referral management
  • Data orchestration SoE solutions for data aggregation and engagement. Planned offerings include additional integration and analytics for interoperability.

While Cognizant, and other vendors, offer a wealth of products and platforms for health systems and payers, for many the financial investment required has been a barrier. But COVID-19 is having an impact, in spite of an estimated four-month loss of $202.6bn for hospitals and health systems in the U.S. Every U.S. health system recently interviewed by NelsonHall regarded digital transformation as more important as a result of COVID-19, with increased investments planned in SaaS and cloud infrastructure. Overall, hospitals & health systems in the U.S. have shortened their planning horizons to address short-term priorities and investments. One major healthcare system stated that their planning horizon was now weeks rather than years. The same reduction in planning horizon is also evident in healthcare payers, but here with a need for customer retention combined with a much stronger emphasis on cost control.

As is true in other sectors, the pandemic will likely increase the acceleration of digital transformation initiatives across healthcare, with a clear focus on achieving short-term results (rather than in years), producing very immediate improvements in both productivity and customer experience.

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