It is widely accepted that the world will be forever changed by COVID-19; that we are unlikely to return to the status quo as it was before the infection struck.
This socioeconomic change will likely be brought about in part by the vast economic implications of so many businesses being brought to a standstill. An unprecedented number of organizations have been forced into bankruptcy, and this is showing no signs of slowing down.
Likewise, though, the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 will likely also lead to behavioral changes, cultural shifts, and more, all of which may impact businesses from every industry.
With that said, the healthcare industry is likely to be the sector impacted most directly. This has the potential to impact thousands of lives, not only due to lost jobs but also due to the lack of care. Patient support must remain our absolute priority.
So with that in mind, what lasting impact can we expect that COVID-19 will have on the healthcare industry at large? And how can we be sure to offer patient support during this time?
The somewhat nebulous term “healthcare industry” refers broadly to a wide range of economic sectors providing patients with curative, rehabilitative, palliative, and preventative care. This can include professionals and organizations that produce or provide medication, that offer health advice and diagnosis, or that directly care for patients.
Healthcare posts can include nursing home staff, physicians, pharmacists, nurses, dentists, and more, but also manufacturers, logistics officers, and more.
Each of these businesses will be impacted differently.
Of course, those companies providing face masks and other protective clothing may actually stand to benefit and grow from this experience. Likewise, any business that successfully produces a vaccine could stand to be in high demand.
Other businesses will be required to continue operating, even under difficult conditions. Among the most important among these are care homes and hospices. Patients here continue to require ongoing support and will face unprecedented levels of isolation from loved ones. The staff has been required to take extra measures to avoid bringing disease into this environment that could see the rapid spread of illness.
But meanwhile, many forms of healthcare have been forced to shutter their doors entirely. All but emergency dental procedures have come to a grinding halt, and the same goes for cosmetic treatments and even physiotherapy.
Patient support is no longer provided by local physicians in the way it once was.
In the wake of this chaos, we can expect many companies to go out of business, placing a huge demand on those that remain.
How do we offer patient support in this post-COVID-19 world?
As well as being reliant on funding from governments, the industry will need to adapt. Better technology already allows for remote consultations and advice via video conferencing tools. In the future, optimized scheduling will be absolutely essential to deal with high volumes.
Likewise, smart business strategies can help these services to remain in business while maintaining reasonable cash flow.
Some providers may also need to consider extending hours to deal with the huge backlog of customers. This also has the potential to bring in more revenue – constant care will need to be taken not to overstretch an already highly stressed workforce.
One of the biggest challenges faced by the healthcare industry as it relates to patient care in the face of COVID-19 is the supply of resources. In particular, we find ourselves with a hugely limited amount of protective gear, sanitizer, testing kits, and ventilators.
Healthcare organizations the world over are struggling with the volume of patients, attempting to “flatten the curve” such that the demand does not outstrip supply.
This will hopefully have served as a huge wakeup call for governments and healthcare organizations across the world. Hopefully, it is now apparent just how important it is that we be prepared for unexpected circumstances.
Hopefully, this is not a mistake we shall make again.
In the meantime, though, this issue will bleed over and affect countless other aspects of the healthcare industry. As more resources are funneled into dealing with the immediate crisis, that will leave fewer supplies available for other areas.
Surgical masks are not only useful for avoiding the spread of Coronavirus: they are also crucial for surgeries!
Suppliers will need to quickly ramp up production and meet this increased demand. Again, a large part of this will be mobilizing the workforce in an optimal way, while at the same time using smart CRM software and other tools to manage a huge number of orders, clients, and challenges at once.
Changes to the Way We Do Business
There has truly never been anything quite like COVID-19 in human history. Of course, we have suffered pandemics before. What makes this one different, though, is the situation that the world was in prior to that occurrence.
In particular, we live in a digital age. We live in an age where testing and measuring is possible. We have a better scientific understanding of the enemy we face, and we are more connected and capable of thriving in the face of adversity.
In other words, we are more able to adapt to the situation than we would have been a century ago – even a few years ago.
Software is playing a huge role in this. The smarter healthcare organizations are adapting by providing consultations and other services remotely, relying on video conferencing and telepresence tools. You may not be able to treat a patient in person, but there is nothing stopping you from providing consultations via Skype or over the phone. This also enables many members of staff to stay at home and to thereby avoid contracting the disease within their place of work, or during their commute.
Here, the healthcare industry relies on so many other industries in order to provide its basic services. That means not only the creators of these communications technologies, but also ISPs, and even security providers. The biggest challenge with taking patient calls at home is a security one: how can you be sure their information is not leaking?
Again, a great CRM system can make a big difference in this regard.
Changes to Views on Healthcare
All this is also likely to change the way that people approach healthcare.
On the one hand, patients and clients will have a greater appreciation of the importance of healthcare and looking after themselves. They have seen firsthand what a devastating effect a viral infection can have, and thus they are more likely to want to take better care of their health.
This may well result in an increased demand for checkups and routine appointments. And who knows, perhaps better awareness of health and washing hands could result in fewer admissions to hospital, or to fewer deaths in care.
This is an optimistic view, but it is certainly possible that the increased emphasis on hygiene is something that could have a lasting impact. It has also been suggested when viewing other countries with historical pandemics, that those countries never go back to normal entirely. In other words, they continue to practice some semblance of social distancing. They continue to give a wider berth on the sidewalk.
Again, these practices may actually result in a smaller number of visitors – at least for the time being.
So What is the Impact of COVID-19?
We have delved deep into many aspects of the impact of COVID-19, and we have still only scratched the surface. The implications for patient care and the healthcare industry are huge, and we should expect the industry to almost completely transform.
That said, the impact will be felt more in some sectors than others. We should expect to see huge changes to any direct, face-to-face care, for example, while suppliers will be hit to varying degrees depending on the nature of the products they manufacture and ship.
Some businesses will be better able to adapt to remote business models, while others will not. Some will weather the storm; others will not.
There are simply too many unknown factors for us to accurately predict the broadest implications. How much will this change the way that patients consider their own health?
What seems likely, though, is that the industry will experience a huge demand that it has a lower capacity to meet.
In the longer term, though, this might flip on its head. The demand may well decrease as people become more health conscious in the wake of COVID-19, whereas those companies that provide health care may be more adaptable and better able to cope with that demand. Those companies may well benefit from improved systems and better supplies that help them to deal with any situation. Technology will play a huge role in this and will enable those businesses to offer the patient care that is so desperately needed.
And again, this should remain very much the priority for all those affected businesses. As healthcare professionals, we have a responsibility to our clients and patients, and to the health of the nation.