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Are pandemic health care trends a fleeting fad or permanent change?

Some trends emerging during the COVID-19 pandemic have the potential to produce lasting change in the healthcare industry. Others shed light on challenges we may face going forward. 

Telemedicine is here to stay
The extraordinary circumstances created by the virus moved virtual health services well beyond expectations. With millions staying home and worried about contracting the virus, thousands turned to telemedicine for the first time. 

For example, Advocate Aurora Health had a goal of completing 25,000 virtual visits in 2020, but when the pandemic hit, the system provided more than 500,000 of these visits in just the first six months of the year.

People are becoming more comfortable receiving virtual care or using artificial intelligence chatbots. Insurance payors including Medicare lifted – at least temporarily – some barriers regarding telemedicine regulation and reimbursement. 

Telemedicine will remain a key component of health care, but there are obstacles to address. For example, not everyone has access to the technology needed to access these services.

Consumer-centric care continues
Moving more health care services to ambulatory settings is nothing new. This evolution will continue post-pandemic. Preventive care, chronic care and same-day surgeries will continue shifting to more convenient, accessible outpatient settings.  This shift also saves hospital beds and resources for acute care.

Health inequities hiding in plain sight
Health inequities are preventable differences in the burden of illness, injury or mortality experienced by one group compared to another. 

Early on in the pandemic, lower rates of testing and higher rates of hospitalizations and mortality were observed among vulnerable populations. COVID-19 also magnified the inequalities in care delivery and the role of social determinants that predate the pandemic and disproportionately affect people of color.

Addressing health inequities remains essential to realize our vision of transforming care and helping all people live well. 

Population health matters
The pandemic highlights the value of long-term population health management. Strategies that help people maintain their health and reduce comorbidities can help them stay well during a pandemic. 

As a country, we must implement data-driven best practices to better manage the upsurge of hypertension, heart failure, diabetes and other chronic conditions. These conditions are some of the most common comorbidities found in COVID-19 fatalities. Population health efforts can and will make a lasting impact.

Accelerated innovation
The pandemic has pushed medical innovations into high gear. New technology is helping us identify medical problems early and avoid unnecessary hospitalizations. For example, daily virtual remote check-ins are an automated way to check symptoms for patients with rapidly changing conditions such as heart failure. This innovative approach is helping Advocate Aurora monitor COVID-19 patients during the pandemic.

COVID-19 has significantly altered our vision of how people think about their health, wellness and care. We fully expect that many transformative trends will permanently outlast the pandemic and improve care and access throughout our communities. 

Looking to create return-to-work strategies for your organization and safely get your employees back to work? Learn more. Also visit Advocate Aurora’s Employer Solutions for solutions customized to your company’s culture, including health plan, employer clinic, EAP, wellness, occupational health and executive health programs.

Advocate Aurora Health is one of the 10 largest not-for-profit, integrated health systems in the United States and a leading Midwest employer with 75,000 employees and the region’s largest employed medical staff and home health organization. The system serves nearly 3 million patients annually in Illinois and Wisconsin.



John Brill, MD, is Vice President of Population Health for Wisconsin, Advocate Aurora Health. Dr. Brill is a Clinical Adjunct Professor of Family Medicine & Community Health for the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health as well as the Medical College of Wisconsin. He received his Medical Doctor and Master of Public Health degrees from the Medical College of Wisconsin in 1991 and 2001.