Covid-19 was an unprecedented healthcare crisis and we were the least prepared to face such a challenge head-on. The level of unpreparedness to such a crisis saw the whole world scrambling for protective gear, like the PPE kit, and finding new ways to continue services amidst lockdown and social distancing.
The impact of COVID-19 on healthcare was enormous. However, the crisis also saw how effectively the health industry rose to meet the challenge.Hospitals are the first line of defense in such a crisis, recognizing the pattern, reporting, and responding to the situation. We at Tier3MD salute the untiring and don’t give up attitude of medical personnel in the face of this global crisis that caught everyone off-guard.
It is in this light that we must now consider the need for future-proof healthcare; to not be taken by surprise again. In this article, we discuss how healthcare has changed and the scope of adaptability of both hospitals and individual practitioners to changing times. Read on to understand the impact of COVID-19 on healthcare and what we can do to future-proof the healthcare system at the institutional and individual level.
COVID-19 as a pandemic spread incredibly fast throughout the world. The models from China and Italy showed that social distancing and lockdown were effective in slowing down the pandemic. These methods gave a sense of control over what is happening, slowing down the increase in cases.
How did lockdown and social distancing impact a hospital financially? It was overwhelming.
Hospitals felt the repercussions of this on two fronts since they are large employers as well as open to the public.
Lockdown and social distancing meant all non-clinical workforce had to choose to work from home. And all non-essential, elective medical procedures and out-patient visits had to be canceled to prioritize COVID-19 treatment and promote social distancing. With patient volume levels well below baseline levels, hospitals were under immense financial strain.
Need for collaborative care
The pandemic saw an exponential need for medical supplies and resources. Instances of international collaboration where countries supplied essential protective gear, medical masks, and ventilators to other countries inspired the world to take a more holistic and collaborative approach to deal with the pandemic.
Collaborative healthcare practices emerged throughout the world where electronic patient monitoring and telemedicine programs were implemented to support colleagues elsewhere. It also allowed the sharing of knowledge and resources on the pandemic as research continued.
At the local level, social groups, faith-based community centers, and other organizations offered volunteer services in the fight against COVID.
The rise of virtual care
The need for social distancing meant that new avenues of healthcare consultancies were taken up. Virtual care appointments became the only option to maintain safety and meet patient demands. The shift to virtual avenues also saw an increase invirtual payment options. A series of declarations and waivers were announced to make the shift to virtual payment easier. The shift to online telehealth services shot up since the pandemic, accounting for almost 43.5% of primary care visits, which was a mere 1% before the pandemic. The pandemic saw an incredible shift of medical services being shifted online, creating a huge demand for healthcare IT services.
It is important to note that hospitals now face high competition from direct-to-consumer telehealth services and consumer pricing pressure. In the face of mounting challenges, it is important to consider structuring the digital offerings and lower-cost digital deliveries.
The pandemic brought into glaring daylight how vulnerable our supply chain systems are. It quickly escalated from a regional problem to a global one. With PPE kits, medical supplies, and even vaccines requiring urgent and effective supply lines, the healthcare supply chain continues to face huge challenges.
More and more governments and suppliers are addressing this vulnerability by adopting LEAN strategies to make supply chain management effective. This strategy ensures streamlining of processes to eliminate all waste and non-value-added activities. The need for a strong supply chain system in the near and foreseeable future means investing in efficient healthcare services.
The Way forward for Individual Healthcare Providers
The pandemic created unprecedented challenges for the healthcare industry. Individual practices have been severely affected as well. The crisis exposed the inefficiency of our public health surveillance system. While policymakers need to do a major overhaul of existing policies and infrastructure, there are a few things that individual practices can do.
Analysis & Planning
Individual healthcare providers have recognized the need to shift to virtual spaces to provide their services. This also means a definite surge of competition compared to the offline competition, which was more or less only regional. With healthcare services accessible at a global scale, the individual healthcare provider is met with the challenge of adapting to a completely different marketplace.
Adapting to changes includes restructuring the offering of services for a digital space, setting up the technical infrastructure to provide the service, finding software providers, and most importantly, creating visibility online to be found by a customer.
Invest in IT
The shift to a virtual space for medical services means, first and foremost, is to have a good technical infrastructure. Recognizing the importance of investing in quality IT service providers can be crucial to the survival of an individual healthcare provider. The shifttowards online platforms is permanent.
Choosing the right IT service provider is an important aspect of investing in IT. Tier3MD understands that healthcare IT needs are unique, and that is why we exclusively serve the medical industry.
Due Importance to Cybersecurity
With the shift to virtual spaces, the risks associated with it have to be addressed. A virtual space is vulnerable to threats from both cyber and physical hazards.
It is important to set up a defense system in place to protect the data and financial transactions from cyber intrusions as well as data loss from system failures. This highlights the need to invest in good anti-virus and anti-malware software as well as a good cloud service provider for data needs.
Participate in Community Partnership
Partnering with community centers or local faith-based centers is an effective way to break down the walls between health care and social service delivery. These cross-sector partnerships can create opportunities for both practitioners as well patients to meet. It also creates channels of service to vulnerable populations who may otherwise not be able to access quality care.
Being Ready for the Future
It’s not over till it’s over.Pandemics come in waves and COVID-19 is far from over. With second and third waves hitting countries around the world, we cannot be caught short again. With the medical crisis raging in countries like India, we mustn’t let down our guard. The impact of COVID-19 on healthcare is a lesson to be learned. A future-proofed healthcare system is the best solution that can effectively survive such global pandemics. Tier3MD understands this like no one else. We are focused on providing the right IT support and solutions to medical practices. So they can focus on what matters – providing the best treatment to patients.
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