A little over a year ago, our lives came to a screeching halt when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic. The onset of this worldwide emergency has brought along a set of unexpected yet grave challenges for humankind. Shortly after it began, our lives were thoroughly affected. Now, we can see the aftermath in the way we work, learn, and interact with others. While we continue hoping that life will get back to normal soon, there are certain changes, especially in the field of healthcare, that are expected to stay. This is not necessarily a bad thing because, during the process of coping with the pandemic, we’ve improved the system tremendously.
What Changes are expected?
As global citizens, we have been through a rollercoaster of events. From hospitals overflowing with patients and forcing them to sleep on the floors all the way to humans fearing physical contact- we’ve seen it all. As a result of this large-scale paranoia, the healthcare system has undergone robust changes, both positive and negative. These changes are most likely to shape the future of our healthcare system even once the pandemic has sufficiently waned or ended.
The Future of Healthcare after the Pandemic: The Optimistic View
The Covid-19 crisis showed us that even in an industry like healthcare, the change could be brought and accepted when needed. Many people avoided clinics and hospitals in fear of catching the virus, resulting in quicker opportunities for creativity and innovation.
Doctors and frontline workers became more mobile, and new technological advancements were introduced to make healthcare more accessible. Consultations were made online, and communication between patients and healthcare workers increased via texting and video calls. Even though some of these changes might revert back as things normalize, they will still leave behind significant cultural shifts.
The pandemic also exposed the shortcomings in the healthcare system, which now gives experts the opportunity to improve and solve. This was observed when the demand for healthcare skyrocketed, but the capacity to accommodate these patients was nowhere near adequate.
To tackle this problem, hospitals sent nurses and doctors who previously took care of elective treatments to assist COVID patients. Moreover, non-clinical staff and even final-year medical students were given a chance to join the frontlines. The pandemic has forced authorities to rethink and reschedule the entire US healthcare system. Conventionally, the system revolves around the concept called patient-centered care, but the pandemic has challenged that approach and encouraged one that is more community-centered. In the future, we can perhaps look forward to healthcare that works to improve patient health outcomes that are beyond the clinical setting.
Another positive change was related to the distribution of care. We noticed that healthcare was not just limited to hospitals and clinics but also made available in areas where patients were more active, like homes, workplaces, churches, and grocery stores. We saw the availability of masks, sanitizers, protective gloves, and temperature checks almost everywhere, and this might continue to be the case.
Healthcare was also made available to us more digitally through apps and telemedicine. This is likely to continue in the future as well, but possibly not for everyone and only selected patients under certain circumstances.
One more positive outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has led to an increased focus on mental health. This is not just applicable to patients but also to those who are healthy. The separation and isolation caused by the virus have taken a toll on a lot of people’s mental health, including healthcare workers. Though mental health issues are not a new concept, they are certainly being taken more seriously after the pandemic. Continued focus on mental health is anticipated, and this gives us hope that in the post-pandemic period, we can expect more accessible therapy.
Last but not least, the pandemic has made us more prepared and strengthened the healthcare system against any future global crises. We have experienced the greatest innovations in medicine in the shortest amount of time. In addition to that, an entire generation of our healthcare workers has gained a set of new skills, experience, and quick decision-making power. This is sure to not go in vain and will certainly improve the quality of future healthcare tremendously.
The Future of Healthcare after the Pandemic: The Pessimistic View
Despite the many positive ways in which the healthcare system is thought to change, there are a few concerns related to its future.
During this global catastrophe, healthcare professionals that were on the frontlines went through extreme working conditions to help patients. Despite the lack of protective equipment, these workers were seen to be still handling the infected ones with DIY solutions, such as plastic bags and goggles. The mental and physical toll that it took on these workers has led to them being more emotionally drained, having serious mental health problems, and experiencing burnout.
Because of the high levels of risk and stress that frontline workers were subjected to, many chose to leave the field and not look back. Meanwhile, the ones who decided to stay may not be as driven. This problem was realized by the governments, medical facilities managements, and institutions rather late. It is expected that even after the pandemic has subsided, these burnout workers might not be as efficient or motivated as they once used to be. This can possibly bring down the quality of the country’s healthcare.
Another concern related to the future of healthcare after the pandemic lies in its monopolization. In numerous parts of the United States, there are only a couple of big medical systems available. Similarly, there are also very few options for health insurance that people can take advantage of. This lack of healthcare supply will push the prices up, with little to no benefit for doctors or patients.
A large-scale change in our healthcare system was triggered by an external force. However, it is now our responsibility to learn from our mistakes and make the necessary improvements so that the future of care can be bright.
“This article written by Lyle Solomon”