Industry trends and the rollout of legislature related to COVID-19 hastened the migration of inpatient procedures to outpatient facilities, like ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) and office-based labs (OBLs). As these facilities have grown, a need for staffing support with proficiency in certain procedures has become apparent. With the prominence of remote collaboration technology in the healthcare industry, ASCs and OBLs are now increasingly prepared to take on a new wave of patient demands. Remote collaboration healthcare UX is now an essential element for the healthcare industry.

Remote collaboration technologies are expanding the potential for outpatient care

Remote collaboration devices skyrocketed since March 2020 as a primary component of virtual care and outpatient centers. Corporate Insight’s research shows that virtual care and communication technology allow for consistent appointments even as COVID-related difficulties continue. Furthermore, their impact continues to grow as these technologies become capable of providing both virtual care platforms and a means for health care provider (HCP) education within remote care centers. As ASCs and OBLs grow and establish themselves as trusted facilities, their UX designs should facilitate seamless communication between staff members and remote collaborators. By creating a new network of collaborators, colleagues, and patients with remote collaboration devices, these outpatient facilities can offer cutting-edge care to patients and establish themselves as industry leaders as the country evolves its pandemic strategy.

Avail Medsystems recently released a remote healthcare collaboration UX solution that exemplifies the benefits these technologies can offer facilities like ASCs and OBLs. Avail’s technology allows facilities to livestream events from the procedure room to remote viewers’ devices. The system allows health care providers (HCPs) to receive proctoring on tablets or other mobile devices from off-site experts, teach surgical techniques and work alongside industry representatives to introduce new tools or devices to their facility’s practices. The Avail system offers enhanced features that allow a viewer to watch demonstrated procedures from different angles, communicate live with the operating provider and share their screen.

This screenshot shows images of Avail's remote console, app and member portal, as seen on the firm's site.
Avail’s Remote Console, App and Member Portal

Using remote collaboration as an educational tool is not the only benefit to this industry development; livestreaming procedures from ASCs or OBLs could increase both the number of educating providers a facility connects with and the breadth of their patient outreach. The promotive aspect of these technologies, e.g., the ability to livestream particular procedures, is particularly impactful on outpatient centers who can showcase themselves as leaders in treating a niche condition or performing a specific surgery.

 

A quickening trend toward ASCs and OBLs is a clear product of the industry’s response to COVID-19

The transition of non-emergent procedures from hospitals to specialized outpatient centers was prompted by a variety of recent changes in the United States. A recent McKinsey study suggests that this emerging outpatient industry may grow at a compound annual rate of six percent between 2018 and 2023—ultimately reaching a value of $36 billion. While this migration to outpatient centers is not new—the number of elective procedures performed in ASCs and OBLs increased from 32% to 50% between 2005 and 2017—the pandemic hastened the transition.

During the initial COVID-19 outbreak, circumstances prompted a steady shift to ASCs and OBLs. When hospitals canceled non-essential procedures, many chose to align with ASCs for continual care, due to a shift in availability of outpatient services and because smaller facilities like those offered patients a safer setting to receive care.

ASCs and OBLs quickly grew in popularity over the next year and a half as a safer setting to receive care by providing protection from COVID-19 exposure at hospitals, relieving hospitals’ backlog of elective surgeries and being more equipped to manage and implement PPE mandates given their smaller size and fuller stock of PPE.

 

Legislative rulings furthered ASC and OBL ability to provide care during COVID-19

Legislative changes by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have supported outpatient facility growth by expanding their billing capabilities and the variety of services they provide. At the beginning of the pandemic, CMS passed a “Hospital without Walls” policy, allowing ASCs and OBLs to bill patients for hospital services at other healthcare facilities and sites. Other legislative changes increased the number of covered ASC services permitted, like California’s Assembly Bill No. 3083, which allowed certain outpatient facilities to provide elective cardiac catheterization laboratory services for the first time. An Outpatient PPS Ruling issued last December also enforced the gradual elimination of the Inpatient-Only list of services that previously could not be performed in an outpatient setting.

The American Rescue Plan expanded the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act through 2022, providing a means for the continued growth of ASCs and OBLs as nearly seven million previously uninsured Americans now qualify for health insurance. Because many of these temporarily insured individuals have only a short period of time to receive care, an influx in elective procedures at outpatient facilities is likely. This predicted increase in requests for care, combined with remote collaboration technology, suggests ASCs and OBLs will thrive in the coming years.

As the U.S. responds to pandemic circumstances, specialized outpatient facilities equipped with innovative remote collaboration technology are at the forefront of the healthcare industry and have the potential to change its entire care delivery practices.

This image shows the results of a KFF Health Tracking survey on the percent of individuals postponing care due to COVID-19 concerns
KFF Health Tracking Percent of Individuals Postponing Care due to COVID-19 Concerns

In addition to tech and legislation, there has been a shift away from high-volume traditional healthcare settings, resulting from U.S. adults changing their care option priorities. Recent data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that four in 10 U.S. adults avoid medical care due to COVID-related concerns, while data gathered by KFF Health Tracking illustrates similar trends. These factors all increase the importance of remote healthcare collaboration UX to help organizations meet the demand for these outpatient options.

Corporate Insight closely monitors the digital patient experience across leading health systems. Within our Health System Monitor, we see organizations responding to new and changing pandemic regulations to provide care for patients. Access further UX insights on the nation’s leading healthcare organizations on our blog.

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Abby DeShazo
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