Despite the coronavirus pandemic stretching the capabilities of healthcare providers globally, thought is already being given to what healthcare will look like after the current situation abates.
With many establishments caught short by shortages of equipment including ventilators and personal protective equipment, undoubtedly attention will fall on being better prepared for the next pandemic.
According to consulting firm McKinsey, practices and procedures are consequently being re-examined, with fundamental shifts likely. The firm identifies three key areas:
New paradigms for infrastructure, geographic distribution of providers, and care settings
Operational excellence, which will be critical in the next normal
Emergence of new growth opportunities and diversification
The first encompasses such activities as improving the flexibility of hospitals by constructing them to integrate infection controlling and intensive care systems. Also of importance is dedicated facilities for care of critical illnesses unrelated to the pandemic, such as cancer, which otherwise might be negatively affected by the focus on COVID-19, and a distancing of “ancillary” functions such as imaging and lab tests from the main hospital facility.. A ramping up of virtual care is also on the cards, meaning access to healthcare through digital or remote methods when possible, such as chatbots and contact with doctors via phones.
The second point, focusing on operational excellence, will be impacted by financial challenges related to the wider world’s economic recovery from the shock of COVID-19. Even when the virus is retreating, people are likely to remain concerned about the virus and avoid visiting healthcare facilities, even when such a visit might be necessary. Getting the supplies needed for healthcare workers will continue to be a challenge, as will hiring healthcare workers themselves.
Despite, or perhaps because of, its destructiveness, the virus does open doors to new areas such as telemedicine, remote screening and even new collaborations between private and public healthcare.