The Healthcare industry has had to adapt to unprecedented challenges while combating COVID-19 over the past several months, and this experience is likely to have vast implications for the future. While it’s difficult to imagine right now what the world will look like at the other end of this pandemic, it’s clear that the “norm” that doctors will eventually get back to will be significantly different from the one that existed before the outbreak.
So, how could COVID-19 change Medicine in the long term? Here are three key shifts we’re watching for as the situation evolves.
1. A Renewed Focus on High-Quality Care
COVID-19 is going to have implications for the whole Healthcare industry, the way it is organised and the way it is managed – not to mention the public perception of its importance. One of the biggest changes we may see is an increased emphasis on quality as the sector rethinks the way it prioritises and delivers care.
As the health crisis has progressed, doctors on the front lines have begun to highlight the burdensome and ineffective practices that are impacting outcomes and making it harder for them to do their jobs well. As a result, we are likely to see people asking questions around what longstanding efforts should look like, which practices should be continued and which ones need rethinking (or discarding altogether) to create a system that better serves its patients.
Post-COVID-19, the focus will likely be more on providing high-quality care, and ensuring that we mordernise systems and leverage technology solutions to provide the best outcomes for all.
2. The Reimagining of Healthcare Delivery
Although the adoption of telehealth has been gradually increasing for several years, the reality of this pandemic has made its true value clear, and usage has accelerated dramatically. The need for physical distancing has caused medical professionals to rethink the belief that care needs to be face-to-face in order to be effective, and we are now looking at ways to bring healthcare to the patients instead of the other way around.
The move to virtual consultations was swift, and even those doctors who were not well-versed in telehealth before will definitely be so now. It’s probable that some degree of this will continue after the pandemic ends, however, as we look to the future, it will be important to build on this foundation and identify how telehealth can be made accessible, effective and sustainable in the long term.
A key consideration will be providing patients a safe, familiar experience within a digital environment, so it will be important for healthcare providers to consider this when looking at technology platforms and thinking about how telehealth will fit into their existing services. The move towards virtual care may also lead to the increased use of supplementary technologies such as artificial intelligence, patient engagement platforms and remote monitoring devices such as digital stethoscopes and portable ECG monitors.
3. A System That’s Better Prepared for the Next Outbreak
One of the biggest effects the pandemic has had on global health systems is it has brought all their shortcomings to light. Although New Zealand and Australia haven’t experienced the same issues that we’ve seen in other countries, COVID-19 has certainly brought the issues we do have into sharp focus. It has become clear that, with an inefficient system, we won’t be equipped to withstand another outbreak, and this will (hopefully) prompt us to ensure we’re much better prepared if this were to reoccur.
In the months and years following COVID-19, we may see widespread improvements around reserves of PPE, emergency planning and hospital infrastructure, enabling us to respond to crises more quickly, accommodate more patients and make it easier to protect the vulnerable members of our population.
Without a doubt, COVID-19 will, eventually, come to an end – but not before changes ripple across every corner of Healthcare. And while the way doctors work in the day to day may look a little different, one positive that will come from this pandemic is that we will never again underestimate the important role they play in keeping our communities safe.
What changes have you seen in your own medical practice as a result of COVID-19? We’d love to hear your thoughts.