COVID-19 and the Future of Healthcare

Doctor in a protective suit holding a nasal swab used to test for possible coronavirus infection

From a remote village in Timbuktu to a towering skyscraper in midtown Manhattan, no one can escape the effects of COVID and its future ramifications. COVID’s reach has affected people and industries across the globe. So we ask ourselves, thanks to COVID-19, what’s the future of healthcare? 

Hospitals

Before COVID, there was a big push to reduce the number of hospital beds, primarily in community hospitals. Rather than walking away with their tails between their legs, they pushed back, sharing that they provided immense value for the community (and they do). Not long after, the pandemic hit in full force. Suddenly there was a massive need for more beds, more healthcare workers, and more supplies. 

As COVID-19 advances, hospitals will need to think ahead. Will they continue only to allow patients and no visitors? Will they require masks on all guest and personnel, will nonessential workers continue to work from home? 

There have been two clear lessons that hospitals will need to learn from moving forward—the first being design. Most modern hospitals lack the flexibility to accommodate the sudden surges of patients. Many hospitals have been running out of not only resources but also necessary space. Moving forward to prepare for future pandemic outbreaks, it’s thought that new designs will be necessary. The second one is the importance of supply chain management. Hospitals relied on national stockpiled supplies that weren’t replenished after the last pandemic and Calfornia fires. Worse, hospitals relied on suppliers that were out, and they were not set up with backup suppliers or the ability to meet suppliers’ needs. You can learn more about that here.  

One thing is sure, as technology continues to advance, the need for hospitals should be on the decline. 

Telehealth

Remember the TV show the Jetsons? Funny enough, most of our childhood favorite shows predicted the future. Telehealth was something that commonly appeared in our favorite Si-FI shows growing up, and we didn’t know it. As telehealth related stocks continue to soar, it’s clear that the future of healthcare (not just on our favorite shows) involves telemedicine. If you’re a practicing physician, one thing is clear; telemedicine might save your practice. Much like restaurants and delivery, consumers are going to providers who can meet them at home where they feel safe, whether that’s a concierge visit or a video call. 

To learn more about telemedicine and the future of healthcare, you can check out our recent article: 5 Tips on Transitioning to Telemedicine.  

AI and Big Data 

Another aspect within telemedicine is AI and digital transformation. From big data to policy, AI is significantly changing the healthcare industry. It’s more than just data and boring computers doing work. There’s some pretty exciting ground-breaking stuff AI can do, including helping doctors with diagnoses, utilizing patient data for case studies, and so much more. You can learn a little more about it in this recent article, AI in healthcare: How it’s Changing The Industry.  

Some within the industry are eager to see the pandemic as the transformative event that brings the digital world to medicine. Allowing healthcare to catch up to other industries, but others aren’t so convinced. During COVID, engineers and data scientists have participated in hackathons where they have utilized their expertise to assist in the pandemic. 

Pharmaceuticals 

The pharmaceutical industry has also seen changes due to the pandemic, and it, too, will need to continue to adapt. To date, many resources have gone towards finding cures and ways to reduce the severity of COVID. A plethora of pharmaceutical companies are racing to the finish line to complete potential therapeutics or vaccines. However, drug development is a timely endeavor. Due to the required policies and procedures, although a vaccine is created, it must go through clinical trials and other red tape. It’s estimated that we won’t see a vaccine until the spring of 2021. 

Health Insurance

One of everyone’s favorite topics, health insurance. With more patient visits, there will be more insurance claims. Immediate term life insurance sales will also likely see an initial boost. However, as mortality increases, most life insurance companies we can expect to see a hold on insurance sales. According to Insurance Journal, our past experience with unfortunate pandemics and epidemics in the last century has given knowledge to insurers to prepare for the upcoming effects of the current COVID pandemic. Thankfully some states have made exceptions allowing for those without insurance to apply during a short open enrollment. But with more people unemployed, and furloughed, we will likely see a spike in uninsured Americans. 

The future of healthcare, thanks to COVID-19, may be uncertain, but all we can do is prepare for what may come. How are you preparing your practice for the future of healthcare? What precautions are you taking? Let us know in the comments below.

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About the author

Ashley Carty

Ashley Carty is a seasoned medical professional with over 8 years of experience working at the top hospitals in Southern California, including Hoag, Saddleback Memorial, and UCSD.

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