Technology, telehealth visits and recovering from all of COVID-19’s effects will drive healthcare in this new year as providers continue to focus on patients.

Rutul Dalal, MD, medical director of Infectious Diseases at UPMC in the Susquehanna region, pointed out the new UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, in Williamsport, which will provide advanced treatment for cancers of all types. He also said he expects better treatments for COVID-19, while people who have avoided medical visits out of fear of the virus will need to catch up on their health in 2021. That may be helped by telephone or video visits.

“There’s going to be an expansion of telehealth across our region, which was a silver lining in this COVID pandemic,” Dalal said. “So we can reach people in interior areas that do not have a robust healthcare system.”

Geisinger’s vision for 2021 and beyond is to make better health easier for local communities, said Dr. Rosemary Leeming, chief medical officer for Geisinger Medical Center.

“We do this by investing in programs that keep people out of the hospital by providing care in the community or the home,” she said. “Some examples include concierge, senior-focused primary care through our growing 65 Forward program that is now also in Shamokin Dam, in-home care for our sickest three to five percent of patients with Geisinger at Home, improving medication adherence by 35 percent with our Mail-Order Pharmacy and helping people get the care they need when they need it with telemedicine in more than 70 specialties.”

Kendra Aucker, president and CEO of Evangelical Community Hospital, in Lewisburg, sees 2021 as a time for healthcare organizations to continue to deal with COVID-19.

“COVID has forced hospitals to grapple publicly with areas of weakness,” she said, noting three particular areas: supply chain shortage, capacity management constraints (such as having enough beds but not enough staff), and workforce burnout.

Another area that will see growth in the next couple of years is digital health, including wearable devices like Apple watches that connect to a person’s smart home technology. Eventually, people may be able to walk into their homes and have their health evaluated—heart rate, physical activity patterns, even devices that alert people with diabetes if they need to adjust their medication.

“It’s kind of like the sky is the limit on some of this,” Aucker said. “There’s just so much to come.”

n Cindy O. Herman lives in Snyder County. Email comments to her at CindyOHerman@gmail.com

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