By Lyle Solomon
Right now, we are all wondering, “When will this pandemic end?” Scientists say there is light at the end of the tunnel. And rising vaccination rates are giving hope, too.
But everything has taken a blow from the COVID-19 pandemic, from our economy to the healthcare system.
For example, patient testing for COVID-19 has greatly increased. While that’s a good thing, there is a concern over diagnostic testing of non-COVID-19 patients. Many people have canceled their elective surgeries, and others don’t have access to intensive care at the hospitals.
The healthcare system has changed drastically during the pandemic. The question is: will these changes be permanent? What will happen to the healthcare system after the pandemic ends?
The rise in telehealth services
Before the pandemic, telehealth was not a preferable option for most people. But there has been a recent shift toward telehealth services since visiting a doctor in person may increase the risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
A July 2021 report by McKinsey shows that the utilization of telehealth has increased by 38 times due to the pandemic.
HIPAA has allowed “non-public facing” remote communication like FaceTime, Facebook Messenger video chat, etc., to consult healthcare providers. Many patients have used those platforms for telehealth services.
Telehealth will play a significant role in the future of healthcare post-pandemic, as people feel comfortable using common messaging platforms.
But these third-party applications may have some privacy issues. So, stringent measures should be taken to protect the patient’s privacy and health information.
Prioritization of mental health
One of the essential norms to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks is maintaining social distance. But social distancing has created mental barriers in most people.
Gradually, a massive population has suffered from mental illness due to pandemic related issues. Almost four in ten adults in our country have reported anxiety or depressive disorder symptoms.
According to The Harvard Gazette, the pandemic is pushing mental health to the breaking point.
So, the demand for mental health treatment is likely to increase. Many people don’t pay attention to their mental health. Gradually, it takes a toll on their overall health.
So, after the pandemic ends, the healthcare system should focus more on providing mental healthcare.
Impact on revenue of healthcare institutions
Many patients have deferred elective care or procedures due to the fear of contracting COVID-19. Others are opting for virtual care options. Over time, this has impacted the revenue of healthcare organizations.
The healthcare system is also spending heavily on buying PPE, sanitization products, engaging additional workers to meet the rising demand, etc.
So, it would help healthcare institutions manage their operations more efficiently if they received incentives to recover from this economic crisis.
A shift towards preventive care
According to a study by the World Economic Forum, five leading chronic diseases (cancer, diabetes, mental illness, heart disease, and respiratory illness) can create a global economic impact of $47 trillion over the next 20 years.
Due to the pandemic, a few chronic diseases like mental illness, diabetes, respiratory illness are rising. With preventative care, instead of reactive care, people can avoid these chronic diseases.
So, people are likely to opt for preventive care more post-pandemic. Consulting a healthcare professional at the right time and bringing lifestyle changes can help keep chronic diseases at bay.
Change in the healthcare infrastructure
One challenge facing the healthcare system is maximizing infection control. A simple way to do so is by creating more single rooms and intensive care units.
Hospitals need to check whether they have the resources to change their designs. Healthcare system can also create virtual ICUs where the ICU setup is made in a patient’s home, and the critical care specialists monitor him or her remotely.
When performing elective surgeries or procedures, hospitals can dedicate a separate building. By doing so, a non-COVID patient’s health won’t be in jeopardy. This will also help the hospitals earn revenue and make sure they stay in business.
Stronger public-private partnerships
The government needs to look for more effective public-private partnerships to avoid any future crisis. For example, in California, Governor Gavin Newsom established the California COVID-19 Testing Task Force. It is a partnership between Blue Shield of California and the California Department of Public Health. The number of COVID-19 tests increased from 2,000 tests per day to more than 110,000 tests per day in 12 weeks.
Better information about healthcare
During the pandemic, many people fell prey to misinformation and became victims of identity theft. Also, fake news about vaccination misguided many people.
So, the healthcare system should come up with creating innovative ways to spread awareness. People need the facts when it comes to their healthcare procedures and avoid relying on random information. The authorities should trace people who are spreading rumors and take action.
The bottom line is, the pandemic has revealed the preparation of the healthcare industry to handle a crisis. No doubt, healthcare professionals have been doing their best to save lives. It has taken a toll on their emotional and physical well-being for fighting against this virus for a long time.
But our policymakers need to understand that the healthcare system needs reform. The pandemic has changed the healthcare system in various ways. Many of those changes can be permanent for creating a new era of healthcare accessible to all.
Author Bio: Lyle Solomon has considerable litigation experience as well as substantial hands-on knowledge and expertise in legal analysis and writing. Since 2003, he has been a member of the State Bar of California. In 1998, he graduated from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California, and now serves as a principal attorney for the Oak View Law Group in California.