Have Healthcare Organizations Made Meaningful Changes Since The Pandemic? Or Are Further Adjustments Needed?

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The COVID-19 pandemic upended life as we knew it, with the healthcare industry at the epicenter of the storm. Healthcare organizations were forced to pivot quickly to meet the demands of the crisis. Now that we are emerging on the other side, Roy Bejarano, Co-Founder and CEO of SCALE Healthcare, asks the critical question: Have these changes been meaningful, or are further adjustments required to prepare for future healthcare challenges?

 

It should be no surprise to anyone that the COVID-19 pandemic brought significant changes to the healthcare industry. The world was rocked by the pandemic, and the changes it wrought for healthcare organizations and providers have been significant.

However, questions still remain if the changes enacted by the healthcare industry in the wake of the pandemic have been meaningful. While the answers may vary, professionals in the industry must ask themselves if further adjustments are needed to bring the industry to the point where it can achieve maximum benefit for all.

What the pandemic brought

Though the doom and gloom of the early pandemic days are behind us, the healthcare industry is unlikely to return to the status quo of 2019. Many of us bore witness to the benefits of technology, working together and forming partnerships, and the overdue exposure of cracks in the system that needed filling.

If anything, the pandemic shined a light on what needed to be done to best care for patients, to keep the doors open, and to keep providers employed. Some of the changes the pandemic brought to the healthcare space include:

Advanced Technology Use

Telehealth services have been around for quite some time, but they were made front and center during the pandemic’s height in 2020. As the nation learned what social distancing was, more and more people took to video conferencing to meet with their healthcare providers, get checked out, and get prescriptions filled. The increased demand for more robust telehealth services led to some much-needed upgrades and better access to healthcare for those who need it the most.

Disease Education

Although most healthcare and medical professionals regularly follow standard precautions when we were sick or in groups during cold and flu season prior to the pandemic, not everyone does. While masks have been a preventative standard in other countries for generations, they were rarely used outside of healthcare offices and the operating room in the US.

Throughout the pandemic, the world at large learned much about how to prevent disease and how viruses spread. While healthcare organizations have battled an onslaught of misinformation and, at times, conspiracy theories, the overall increase in awareness of disease prevention has been a silver lining emerging from a dark time.

Collaboration

From the pandemic’s onset, there were calls of being “all in this together,” from government officials to healthcare leadership. People cheered for the front-line workers and essential healthcare employees that were battling the pandemic day in and day out. A collaborative effort between virologists, ER doctors, ICU nurses, pharmacists, and those giving tests (and later vaccines) helped all of us navigate the unprecedented time. It showed that partnerships and collaboration benefit the healthcare community and are far more useful than working separately.

Healthcare Disparities

The pandemic helped to highlight where changes within the healthcare industry desperately — and, in some cases, immediately — needed to be made. Access and equality issues were laid bare, with people in more rural regions finding access to testing and treatment difficult. The cost of a hospital stay that may have come with a Covid diagnosis could very well bankrupt a family. Furthermore, major disparities still exist regarding the rate of illness and death for people of color that the healthcare community continues to grapple with, even after President Biden officially declared the pandemic to be over in September of 2022.

Supply chain changes

One of the major hiccups to occur due to the pandemic was the supply chain interruption. Hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare organizations had issues with securing enough PPE to get them through spikes in variants. Many healthcare organizations realized that they needed to secure their supply chains and improve their inventory management practices for the next potential crisis, rather than assume a shortage might not occur.

Meaningful changes

It could be successfully argued that the changes brought by the pandemic to the healthcare industry were indeed meaningful. People have more access to healthcare professionals than ever before through telehealth, we are aware that supply chains can break down and should be readying ourselves for that to happen again, and many organizations have set about addressing the disparities in healthcare that Covid revealed.

Yet, these meaningful changes do not mean that further adjustments are unnecessary. The healthcare industry in America is far from perfect; if we hope to have a smoother path when the next healthcare crisis hits — which it inevitably will — we will all need to be better prepared.

Organizations that have been resisting the implementation of technology will need to decide to either get on board or very likely be left in the dust. Patients are going to come to expect the availability of technologies like telehealth. If they are not able to find them with their providers, they are very likely to seek out other avenues, which could spell trouble for providers who remain stuck in the more “traditional” ways of managing their practice. Likewise, organizations that ignore the societal shifts that came about in the past few years will be doomed to repeat past mistakes in providing care in an inequitable manner.

Lastly, organizations need to take a big lesson from the pandemic and seek partnerships and collaboration with other providers. Even though the worst of the pandemic has waned, the bond formed within the healthcare industry should not be severed. We are only at our best when working together towards a common goal of improved outcomes and better overall wellness for everyone.

 

 

 

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