It was nowhere in our imagination to envision the world undergoing a change as enormous as a pandemic, and nor were we ready to welcome a new "normal." We have only heard about pandemics or epidemics like the Spanish flu in history. But the thought of such an event occurring during our lifetime barely crossed our minds.
As much as we all were hoping for it to be over, the situation has been quite the opposite. It has been a year since the first case of the COVID-19 surfaced, and currently, the world is facing a second wave.
In all this chaos, healthcare professionals worked day and night to help patients recover. Sadly, many also lost the battle while fighting this deadly virus. Globally, healthcare systems were shouldering the burden of a fight against the pandemic, and they needed funds and human resources more than ever. To date, the world is witnessing a massive shift in the healthcare sector. The outpatient departments shifted more towards virtual treatments; people became more conscious regarding their health, and telemedicine emerged as a vital strategy to deliver medical assistance.
However, confusion still reigns regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the healthcare system's future. We are yet to explore the changes, but we cannot deny that the healthcare system that will emerge from the pandemic will never be the same. How will it transform? What will the future of patient care look like? Will there be enough resources for offline and online education to facilitate the growing demand for trained healthcare professionals? These questions can bother anyone, and stakeholders are busy exploring for answers. The following aspects can play a vital role in the transformation of healthcare.
Regulation Of Infrastructure
Traditional changes in the healthcare sector like updating infrastructure, making room for more patients, and adapting to new tools is always a slow process. A single decision of creating a new department or increasing the number of beds takes months of paperwork before getting approval as the chain of command is quite long. Sometimes it's the political bureaucracy that proves to be a hurdle in the process.
With the COVID-19 outbreak, many crucial decisions about medical infrastructure had to be expedited for the community's greater good. Mobile hospitals were set up to cater to an increase in the number of patients. In short, the pandemic got a lot of governments and policymakers thinking about the state of the healthcare system before the outbreak and its long-term viability.
Integration Of Technology
Telemedicine had been around for quite a while, but its significance had been kept in the shadows. With many aspects of life shifting to the digital realm, healthcare systems also needed to find a way to facilitate the young practitioners and the patients alike. The integration of technology can only work if professionals and people have an understanding of its use. One of the positive impacts of the COVID-19 is that it triggered technology's integration to the primal levels of providing quality patient care.
Many trial based decisions were made; one of them was the digital collection of data. Because people were required to maintain physical distancing, hospitals refused to open their other healthcare departments for chronic diseases, asking them to stay home. With chronic disease patients confined at home, many hospitals opted for digital portals and telemedicine – a more than welcome change in this current age of digitalization
With the digitalization of the patient's portal, online diagnosis and treatment have also become effective. People can seek treatment by consulting medical experts online. While this had proven to be crucial when people stayed indoors during lockdowns and quarantines, it has long-term implications that will make the dispensing of timely healthcare services extremely convenient and affordable.
Providing quality healthcare services is one of the fundamental concerns of every country. Governments fix a hefty budget to ensure its availability to as many citizens as possible. The healthcare expenditure in the U.S is expected to rise by 5.4% per annum, leading to 6.2 trillion by 2028.
As people continue to avoid the crowds unnecessarily, financial institutions are now looking for innovative medical payment methods. It is also probable that the cost of establishing medical infrastructure also goes down with the integration of telemedicine.
Shifting The Focus To Non-Communicable Diseases
As we continue to fight through the pandemic, healthcare experts have begun to realize that non-communicable diseases are still a major challenge at hand. Different studies have reported that older people with existing medical conditions are highly vulnerable targets. The recent pandemic of COVID-19 has shifted the focus to create more awareness about rising non-communicable diseases and encouraging people to take necessary precautions. The importance of making healthy lifestyle choices has never been felt with a sense of urgency than before.
Utilizing Elective Procedures
With hospitals focusing more on COVID-19 patients, patients with chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular issues face a delay in their primary care procedures. The hospital management can restart the elective procedures to facilitate such patients' needs and ensure their well-being. Guaranteeing the availability of nurses and doctors to look after the patients suffering from chronic conditions can save lives.
The rise of COVID-19 has brought many changes, but it has also led to some positive healthcare system changes. The authorities and officials are trying the methods that were long due and have automated many procedures. The lessons learned from the global crisis can help many policymakers to transform the healthcare system. With effective change management and utilization of the technology, the healthcare system can make the most out of its changes. Be it a pandemic or any other disease, updating and adapting to modern methods can revolutionize the quality of healthcare services worldwide.