COVID-19 has had searing effects to different aspects of the economy. The healthcare industry, for one, is at the forefront. Hospital staff and facilities around the world are struggling to handle the droves and droves of COVID-19 cases. A medical centre in California, for example, would have to deal with an average of 103,000 cases on a daily basis — and this is not yet counting just how many cases there are for other US states.
At the forefront of all of these issues is the healthcare industry which no doubt, has had to rethink the way care, as well as, hospital and medical services are delivered to the public. Some of the issues that the industry struggles with, include the lack of hospital beds for accommodation, undermanned facilities, and shortage of equipment and other supply-related shortages that have been brought on by the pandemic.
In the age of the new normal — as it will continue to be in the next few coming years or so, there has to be changed in the way the industry responds to these issues. Although there are already hundreds and thousands of publications on COVID-19 — more than 22,000 to give an estimate, the fact of the matter is, the virus is still present. It will continue to loom over the industry for a few more years to come.
Just recently, it was reported that a new COVID-19 strain that’s far more infectious has been discovered in Italy and Britain. As the virus continues evolving, there is only hope for an effective vaccine that can protect individuals against it. However, the issue still remains — how can hospitals continue adapting to a constantly evolving “new normal”? Challenges will certainly arise on the availability of real-time information, protecting healthcare staff, and enfranchising hospitals and medical centres on a global scale.
Importance of Availability of Information in Healthcare Industry
One of the challenges that the industry will certainly have to deal with, is the availability of information on a real-time basis. This has several implications on the quality of care, speed of care, and effectivity of the treatment.
As mentioned before, the knowledge about the virus continues to evolve. Think about this: When the pandemic first hit, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention released documents online that discussed the transmission of the virus. The general idea was that the transmission was mainly possible through physical contact with someone who was infected with the virus. This was mainly possible through droplets that may be produced by coughing, sneezing, or talking.
There was initially no thinking that the virus was airborne. But lo and behold, in September of 2020, when it was reported that a bus in China that was carrying 68 passengers during a 50-minute ride, had 33% of the passengers test positive. This is despite the fact that most of those who were confirmed with the virus were not even sitting anywhere near the infected individual.
Keeping this in mind, nothing else — apart from the basics of COVID-19 — that is known about the virus is fixed. There will consistently be new developments, teachings, understandings, that will certainly have an effect on how patients are treated.
For hospitals, a way of keeping up with these changes is by constantly investing in IT infrastructure and up-to-date technology that focuses on the highest possible accuracy for patient care, and effective service.
Protection of Healthcare Staff
Healthcare workers and frontline workers are constantly exposing themselves to the risks of COVID-19. Day in and out, they are the ones who are treating patients, testing individuals, and managing hospital facilities that may potentially be a hotbed for COVID-19 cases.
Private facilities, in collaboration with government authorities and other public organizations, need to understand just how essential it is to protect these people and provide them with adequate safeguards on the job.
For example, this person should be given adequate tools and equipment in order to perform their functions effectively. They should also be provided with specialized Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), ensuring that they do not have a shortage of this.
Most importantly, these individuals should be given the right amount of hazard pay as they continue to stay on the frontlines of battling the virus, handling day-to-day operations, and caring for sick individuals.
Separation of Treatment for Non-COVID-19 Cases
In some countries where COVID-19 cases rose at an exponential rate, there was the burden on hospital facilities to accommodate every infected individual. Dedicated Intensive Care Units were set up to make sure that the patient not only receives specialized care, but also to make sure that they do not infect other non-COVID-19 patients in the same vicinity.
The situation above, however, is the ideal. Aside from trying to meet the demands of cases, especially those in the severe to critical spectrum, they also need to implement a robust planning on creating separate facilities for non-COVID-19 cases.
Likewise, while most of the responsibility falls on the center, collaboration should be done between and among key stakeholders to ensure that there are adequate facilities and ICUs to house and properly care for these patients.
This can be possible through revisiting hospital policies, investing in physical spaces, formulating a new crisis management framework, or making improvements to minimum health standards and duty of care required on the part of medical personnel.
There is no doubt that the healthcare industry will have to continue making the necessary changes to accommodate how COVID-19 is approached in different facilities.
As discussed, there will be a focus on making accurate information available on a real-time basis. From thereon, this will trickle down into how well healthcare personnel are protected, and how effectively a medical centre, a hospital, or any private care facility can conduct effective treatment of patients and personnel.
As the new normal continues to persist, taking note of these many changes and requirements as soon as now is essential in empowering the industry further and allowing personalized and proper care to be delivered to everyone who needs it.