At almost this exact time last year, Bright.md joined thousands of other companies around the U.S. and sent our employees home to work virtually to prevent contributing to the spread of COVID-19. We didn’t know then if it would be for a few weeks or a few months. What we did know is we had a role to play–as a digital health company committed to improving care delivery for patients and providers, and as individuals–to support our colleagues on the frontlines in healthcare in every way we could.
It’s been an unthinkable year: working remotely, watching infection and death rates rise, worrying about the toll virtual learning and isolation are taking on our kids and our parents, mourning loved ones. But we’ve also seen some bright spots, and, as we march closer to spring, there are reasons for hope.
The Bright Spots
In January 2020, Bright.md added coronavirus screening questions to our asynchronous care delivery platform already in use by some of the largest healthcare systems in the nation. As hospitals and health systems experienced an onslaught of patients seeking care for–or reassurance about–COVID-19, we were confident our technology could help. By early March, we rolled out a coronavirus-screening tool free of charge that could be up and running on a hospital’s website in two days or less.
To date, almost 225,000 patients have been screened for COVID-19 using our technology, saving more than 35,000 clinical hours–time that providers have been able to spend on patients who need care most. We built the Bright.md platform to improve healthcare for both patients and providers, so to be able to build upon our expertise and alleviate administrative burdens through our COVID-19 screener to make an impact for both patients and doctors bearing the brunt of this pandemic, is such a bright spot.
As vaccines have become more widely available, we have added clinical content to our platform that allows for a diagnosis and treatment of reactions to COVID-19 vaccinations. The goal? To help patients get answers about the symptoms they’re experiencing after receiving a vaccination, and save clinicians time identifying and treating common side-effects, while escalating those that are more worrisome to get care where and how will drive optimal outcomes.
For the healthcare system in general, one of the biggest successes of the pandemic era has been the incredible increase in telehealth adoption. Patients and providers are now more comfortable delivering and receiving care virtually. Two-thirds of patients plan to continue using telehealth after the pandemic, and it is likely that as many as 25 percent of patient encounters will be virtual going forward.
Where We Go from Here
Despite the progress we’ve made, it’s clear we still have work to do to improve healthcare delivery, and three areas in particular stand out for us at Bright.md.
- Access and equity: COVID-19 has exposed just how far we need to go to make healthcare more accessible and equitable for all. Amidst encouraging data about how many people are now embracing telehealth, it can be easy to overlook the still significant numbers of people who don’t have the ability to get care virtually–not to mention the unacceptable gaps in outcomes for many. Care from anywhere is great, but if we only give patients the option of a video visit, we’re leaving a lot of them out. Many people lack access to broadband or wifi, or they have very limited data plans on their phones. Others don’t speak English as a first language. And the majority of Americans find our healthcare system hard to navigate. As we continue to push care experiences online, we must ensure the digital tools we’re using work for everyone, especially those who are already marginalized due to geography, race, economic status, or other social factors.
- Mental health: Sometimes referred to as the second pandemic, the forthcoming mental health crisis threatens to overwhelm an already burnt out clinical workforce. Fortunately, digital health tools hold promise both in terms of increasing access to mental health support, which clinicians can take advantage of themselves, and in streamlining their workflows to boost their productivity, as well as eliminating administrative tasks–one of the leading causes of burnout.
- Preventive care: Data from the Advisory Board reveals that 41% of U.S. adults have delayed medical care due to concerns over COVID-19. This means sicker patients, and also carries many downstream challenges for the healthcare system, including capacity and costs long-term. The need to remove barriers to high-quality and efficient preventive care has never been more urgent.
As the world progresses through this pandemic, we still face a lot of challenges before we get back to anything resembling normal. One bright spot–across healthcare, science and technology, the workplace, and far beyond–is innovation. We’ll no doubt look back on this year and remain astounded by the acceleration of innovation in so many areas, and the shift to embrace new innovations across sectors–all amidst a backdrop of so much darkness, uncertainty, and loss. It’s been inspiring to us at Bright.md, where innovation is core to our mission. We’re committed to finding creative ways to meet the challenges the next twelve months will bring, and we look forward to continuing to support our healthcare partners who are on the frontline of the most important work yet to be done. To the heroes who have helped us all get through this year: we’ll never be able to thank you enough.