Healthcare institutions’ revenues have fallen short of expectations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Healthcare executives have been altering processes and taking decisions on an as-needed basis during these unprecedented times. In the report “Top Health Industry Issues of 2021,” PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI) has suggested the use of predictive forecasting systems to help healthcare executives make decisions to positively affect the revenue gap.
“[The] capability to forecast the future could be as important to healthcare survival in 2021 as a mask may be for slowing the spread.”PwC’s Health Research Institute
Predictive Forecasting Systems
Predictive forecasting systems allow healthcare executives a glimpse into the future of further possible impacts of the pandemic. These systems help with forecasting demand and fulfillment planning. Anticipating shifts in various aspects within the healthcare industry, such as consumer behavior, utilization, and revenue gives executives an idea of how to modify current business processes for the best possible outcomes.
Optimizing the revenue cycle requires accurate budgeting, planning, and allocating. This is especially critical during a crisis such a this pandemic. Predictive forecasting helps to keep the dynamic components as accurate as possible. For example, forecasting which segments of the population will be affected most by the pandemic in the near future (based on demographics such as geography, ethnicity, profession, and comorbidity) will allow healthcare specialists to prioritize patients in need of care.
Alternatively, predictive forecasting may show that fewer patients will be coming into the hospital with COVID-19 symptoms at a given time in the future. Instead, more patients need general care at that time. Executives can then plan to allocate more resources to the services for general care rather than COVID-19 care.
“Stronger forecasting can help health services providers predict volumes by service lines and sites of service, as well as plan for clinician staffing, personal protective equipment needs, and vaccine distribution,” the report says.
Many executives are already planning on adjusting budgets to include predictive modeling. In fact, 74% of healthcare executives reported intentions to invest further in predictive modeling this year.
Experts from PwC state“The experience of the pandemic showed the need for healthcare leaders to move from a retrospective view fed by historical trends and past claims to a prospective view based on real-time information, both clinical and nonclinical.”
Forecasts from Trends in 2020
Using real-time data to predict healthcare trends helps executives plan and implement the necessary products and services. This ensures positive patient and revenue outcomes. Nobody could have predicted the effects of the pandemic. However, recent data on the necessary resources to treat COVID-19 patients can be used to accurately forecast the budget for the current year.
An obvious trend that is not going anywhere is telehealth. Primary care providers have been able to safely offer care digitally. Some providers have offered telehealth appointments previously, but while the telehealth journeys for others began with the pandemic, requiring a hasty adjustment of budgeted allocations.
Although some care can be provided remotely, that is not the case for all providers. Specialty care, often procedure-based, cannot be offered fully virtually. A halt on elective procedures has created a backlog of patients waiting for their opportunity to receive care. While surgeries are not expected to be performed virtually, preoperative and postoperative care can be administered through telehealth.
MobiHealth reports an expected increase in Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) in 2021 due to decreased availability of hospital beds and in-person consultations along with patients’ general fear of contracting the virus in healthcare facilities. Providers who previously did not use RPM will require an adjustment in their budget to reallocate resources such as staff and equipment, as well as implementing new processes and training.
Predictive forecasting can help executives “make data-driven decisions to improve the health of their communities and reduce waste,” HRI experts say. “Healthcare companies need a constant reading on these streams to understand how to adapt care and engagement in response to crises or sudden shifts in behavior and mobility.”