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How healthcare business looks set to change beyond COVID-19

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The Coronavirus disease has created an economic crisis as well as a health care crisis, and while historically, health care has been relatively immune from recessions, this time it is different. People get sick during both good and bad times, so the demand for medical care is relatively constant no matter what is going on elsewhere, however COVID 19 is a healthcare crisis but it looks like it will mean accelerated changed worldwide and hopefully a better healthcare system all round.

The Coronavirus pandemic has not only changed the way we live our everyday lives, but it has also highlighted the shortcomings of healthcare systems worldwide. It has shown that overburdened hospitals desperately need upgrades on every level, from their infrastructures to their processes. When comparing death rates, Germany’s good intensive care situation has stood out.

In the UK, Covid-19 has shown that just in a matter of weeks, change is possible. Traditional GP appointments have been supplanted with the rapid adoption of video and telephone consultations, enabling vulnerable patients to speak to their doctor safely. Online prescriptions via the NHS app increased by 97%, including a massive surge in use by over 65-year-olds.

What we can predict is that once the threat of COVID 19 has reduced or even been eradicated entirely, we will hopefully have a vaccine as well as new, approved treatments based on the huge amount of data collected during the pandemic. It is also likely that there will be new public health protocols all over the world to make sure that another catastrophe of this scale can be prevented in the future.

There will likely be a surge and a change in healthcare education; for example, you might be thinking, ‘what is a health information management degree?’ Well, this is a degree that studies digital patient data. It looks at the tools and methods used to manage regulatory, privacy, and tech issues, something that is going to become increasingly important post-COVID 19.

We also know that the life that we get back to will be significantly different from the one we had before the outbreak. From healthcare workers who have PTSD through new habits to a need for a shift in the point-of-care, we analyze how life will change after COVID-19 and also how life can and should change post-COVID-19 in a medical point of view. So, as the pandemic is sure to accelerate change within the healthcare sector all over the world, how will healthcare look beyond COVID 19?

Digital health showed its capability to deal with such a crisis. This pandemic has reinforced the urgent need for updated digital systems, end-to-paper notes, and centralized patient records for the UK. More ambitious technologies, such as using artificial intelligence to improve patient care, rest on getting these basics right. According to the chief executive of NHS Digital, some healthcare technology that has been rolled out at scale in response to the Covid-19 outbreak is “here to stay.”

It is no surprise that there has been a spotlight shone on the future of healthcare due to the COVID-19. The global pandemic has highlighted what could have been done better or differently, and governments and healthcare professionals need to do to prepare should such a pandemic happen again.

While Coronavirus gave no warning, there wasn’t enough time to get some processes in place, so they were rolled out quickly and will need to be reviewed.

Sarah Wilkinson, chief executive of NHS Digital, told Digital Health News that the digital department’s response to Covid-19 had been “really really intense” but “unbelievably energizing”. She said that the organization has been “empowered” after “time-consuming blockers” fell away as the NHS ramped up its effort to use digital services as the coronavirus threat increased.

NHS Digital revealed in April that demand for NHS tech services had skyrocketed since the coronavirus outbreak began. The most notable increase in use was recorded for Microsoft Teams, the NHS App, and NHS 111 online.

However, it is now the time to discuss what the broader impact will be and whether digital tools will remain once the immediate threat of Coronavirus is reduced. Wilkinson said: “I think we will see a broader use of tools such as e-triage along with citizens’ use of technology and remote care. These things are here to stay.”

However, other “arrangements,” including data sharing, extra information being included in Summary Care Records, and GP Connect being introduced to all practices, will have to be reviewed.

The application of digital health was already expected to go far beyond the traditional system and empower individuals to manage their own health. However, this will be accelerated, and digital health applications will continue to expand care delivery models beyond physical medicine, including behavioral health, digital wellness therapies, dentistry, nutrition, and prescription management.

Health care will increasingly shift from inside to outside hospitals, and while in countries all over the world, Telemedicine or Telehealth, or the remote delivery of healthcare services, was already set to become a $130 billion market by 2025, this should now happen faster than expected. Some online services have reported up to a 500% increase in usage during the pandemic, and as COVID-19 is forcing industries to figure out how to engage with their customers without seeing them in person, these new solutions are having to be implemented at unprecedented speeds.

Examples of this can be seen all over the world as companies such as Medical software firm Heal Inc. is rolling out a new service to enable California residents to chat by video with a licensed clinical psychologist for $69 for a 20-minute session. Then there is Rhode Island-based DataGenius Technologies LLC who has extended its My Vitals mobile app for secure sharing of medical information to add a video component and Vecna Technologies Inc. has seen a huge amount of interest in its new mobile app for patient intake and online registration. This app automates most of the paperwork and scheduling that previously required face-to-face interaction. “Healthcare used to be a high-touch field with a lot of personal interaction, but now it’s looking like touchless has become almost a necessity,” said CEO Debbie Theobald. “Telemedicine has really taken off.”

Japanese technology company Fujitsu has partnered with US biotech startup Polaris to create a new supercomputer-based drug discovery platform that promises to substantially speed up the process of discovering new treatments for hard-to-treat diseases such as Covid-19.

As data management has become the norm in the healthcare industry, it is expected that a high number of specialty-specific analytics solutions will gain prominence among providers striving to investigate drug utilization, treatment variability, clinical trial eligibility, billing discrepancy, and self-care program attribution specific to significant chronic conditions.

Voice technologies, as with most industries, are also going to be prominent in the healthcare industry. HIPAA-compliant voice and chatbot applications will bring voice technology to vetted clinical use cases such as elderly care and chronic condition management.

As healthcare is unlikely to return to its low-tech past, it looks like we can expect to see many governments put more focus on healthcare. They can adopt similar strategies employed by other countries that better managed the crisis. As people in the frontlines of the fight witnessed, with inefficient healthcare systems, we will not be able to handle the next outbreak. Christopher Palmieri, CEO of Commonwealth Care Alliance, a Massachusetts-based not-for-profit, community-based healthcare organization, said: “Virtual consultations during COVID-19 have demonstrated to clinicians that patient care doesn’t have to be high-touch to be highly effective. The pandemic will go, but the tools will stay.”

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