How COVID-19 Permanently Changed Healthcare

How COVID-19 Permanently Changed Healthcare

Since the end of 2019, when the SARS-CoV-2 virus first began to spread, the healthcare industry has seen many changes that will likely become permanent. The healthcare climate that many patients and professionals alike have been accustomed to for decades has been turned on its head. Within a couple of short months, millions of Americans lost their jobs—and with them, their employer-provided health insurance. How has the healthcare system pivoted to accommodate the rush of changes the COVID-19 pandemic brought about? How have millions of folks continued to see their doctors while quarantined in their homes? As the country awaits the “new normal,” let’s discuss what that new normal will look like. Learn how COVID-19 permanently changed healthcare and prepare yourself for continuing shifts in the industry. Many of those shifts are here to stay.

The Golden Age of Telemedicine

The healthcare industry had been eyeing remote medicine for years and had planned a slow rollout of telemedicine technology. COVID-19 forced that technology to roll out within weeks as offices shut down to the public. This safe and convenient option allows patients to visit with their doctors from the comfort and safety of their own homes. Now, more than a year later, we’re all experts at Telehealth and Zoom appointments. Remote doctor’s appointments are here to stay—after all, COVID-19 isn’t the only germ out there. Now that there are multiple options available for remote medical help, the transmission rates of many other diseases will go down.

In tandem with the rise of video calls with doctors, the rate of communication between doctor and patient has also risen. In 1991, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was passed, disallowing doctors from discussing detailed medical information with patients via phone or text. In 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an order to change this act. Now, doctors and patients are in constant, reliable communication with one another without the need for an in-person appointment. If this change sticks around after the pandemic is over, patients won’t have to wait so long for test results. Doctors will be able to cut through some of the bureaucracy to confer with their patients more quickly and effectively.

A Closer Look at Infrastructure

Understaffing was a common problem in hospitals before COVID-19, but the pandemic exacerbated the dangers of insufficient staffing. Hospitals learned firsthand that an understaffed ward costs lives—and not just those of the patients. Nurses wearing garbage bags as makeshift PPE underscored the dire financial needs of hospitals that could not afford sufficient sterile gear. The pandemic put a magnifying glass on crucial problems in the supply chain; these gaps will be much harder to gloss over in the future. As we settle into that new normal, medical PPE gear will become more commonplace even during routine doctor’s visits. Get used to seeing masked faces in medical settings; they’ll be here long after the pandemic has subsided.

When the country’s initial shutdown happened in March of 2020, hospitals lost a great deal of their income when patients had to reschedule elective surgeries. People who were set to go in for non-essential procedures hesitated to enter a potentially deadly environment. As hospitals put themselves back together, they’ll likely create separate wards for infectious diseases. Additionally, nursing homes are also facing challenges separating their infected patients from healthy residents. Many of them are working similarly to keep ill patients from getting others sick.

In order to even out some of the pressure on doctors, the healthcare industry is looking at involving more non-physicians in certain medical procedures. In May of 2020, lawmakers proposed a bill called the Testing, Reaching, and Contacting Everyone (TRACE) Act. It would allow non-physicians to work in mobile units to perform diagnostic testing and contact tracing outside of an office environment.

A Crucial History Lesson

More than anything else, COVID-19 taught the healthcare industry what it had been doing wrong before the pandemic hit. From the deadly dangers of understaffing to the importance of air filtration systems indoors, hospitals learned on the fly which choices would save lives and which would cost them. From now on, medical PPE gear will be all but ubiquitous in hospital wards. Professionals and civilians alike will mask up with the help of American Screening.

An old saying states, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Over the past year and a half, the most learned voices in the healthcare industry have been speaking up on behalf of preventative measures. Every study performed and sanitation method tested becomes another volume in the history we’ll look to for the rest of our lives. Science classes of the future who learn about viral mutations can learn from the Delta variant.

In addition, the healthcare industry can learn where its faults lie by looking at the communities most affected by COVID-19. The virus ripped through poor neighborhoods more severely than it did upper-middle-class suburbs. African-American communities saw—and are still seeing—a toll unfamiliar to many white Americans. Indigenous reservations have been disproportionately affected by a criminal lack of medical care. These disparities have existed since the inception of American healthcare, but the pandemic has highlighted them so brightly that the industry can no longer ignore them. The future holds a critical review of the populations most ravaged by the virus, and what the healthcare industry can do to treat them more effectively.

A Hopeful Future

Over the last year and a half, American hospitals have lost thousands of healthcare workers, from surgeons to nursing assistance. The medical community in this country has suffered a blow that will leave permanent marks.

However, there is a spark of hope: medical school applications are at an all-time high.

Not unlike the spike in military enlistments after 9/11, young people all around the country are motivated to help. College students are moved by heartbreaking stories of nurses saddled with overtime and dying patients unable to say goodbye to their families. They want to make the future of healthcare better. A healthcare industry staffed with big-hearted, community-minded professionals will help guide it into a more equitable and safe future.

Breaking news about the COVID-19 pandemic has been making headlines for a year and a half now. People toss around the phrase “new normal,” but what does that new normal look like in practice? COVID-19 permanently changed healthcare from multiple angles, but they all point towards a new normal where working with community safety is at the top of the priority list.

How COVID-19 Permanently Changed Healthcare

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