We have just passed the one-year mark since the World Health Organization announced a global pandemic. We’ve seen the world come to a standstill as the coronavirus upended daily lives. Now that the U.S. is starting to roll out vaccinations and slowly return to a semblance of normality, there are things in the healthcare system that have changed. Here are some of the lasting changes:
The Rise of Telemedicine
Telemedicine has been around for as long as the internet has been commercially available. What’s stopping it from widespread use according to Chris Jennings, policy consultant and former healthcare adviser to the Obama and Clinton administrations, is the assumption that in-person contact is always required in primary care, and that virtual visits are inadequate.
However, the recent health crisis has proven that telemedicine is satisfactory in most primary care cases. It’s often safer, quicker, and more convenient than an in-person doctor’s visit. The virtual model allows physicians to work more efficiently and see more patients, while protecting both parties from transmission of viruses and diseases as well. Telemedicine has not only improved safety, but has also increased healthcare accessibility. Stay-at-home orders—together with technology—have accelerated telemedicine adoption.
Normalizing Remote Healthcare Training and Learning
The pandemic caused a spike in demand for healthcare professionals, further highlighting the shortage of nurses and physicians. This jeopardizes the entire healthcare system, especially in the U.S., where there is an aging population in need of greater care. But just as telemedicine is helping address healthcare inaccessibility, remote healthcare training and learning is also helping solve these shortages.
Healthcare industry hopefuls now have a chance to enroll in online courses, which will give them the basic knowledge to start their careers in healthcare. Online nursing courses, for example, enable students to study online while arranging the required clinical duties with hospitals and clinics. For nurses who want to upskill, online RN to BSN programs have become appealing. These programs give nurses the opportunity to advance their careers and take on more leadership roles, such as nursing supervisor or director. As these programs are taught completely online, students can plan their schedules around daily life without having to take time off work. Online programs from institutions recognized by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) are great options, since these are just as valid and credible as typical degrees earned through in-person learning. Remote learning has become more commonplace over the past year, and it is helping produce more graduates who can join the field, and help curb the shortage of healthcare workers.
Personalization of Supply Chains and Healthcare Plans
At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a critical shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). This pushed several healthcare organizations to seek out different sources, and adjust the way they handle their PPE stockpiles. Many hospitals have looked to overseas suppliers, decentralizing the process. They’ve even considered adopting the Amazon model for medical supplies, mitigating future shortages of PPE and other essential hospital items. Some health systems have even restructured their supply routes, removing unnecessary steps, to make the supply chain more efficient and hyper-personalized to their facility’s needs.
Similarly, people are now more conscious than ever about their healthcare plans. They pay more attention to every aspect of care— from scheduling, care sessions, and payment and reimbursements. More people are relying less on employment-based healthcare plans, and are actively seeking out plans that they can customize and adjust based on their preferences and needs.
This period in history marks a change in how people live their lives and adjust their work to meet the changing needs of patients. Indeed, healthcare has been forever altered as it continues to adjust to changing needs and new demands following the pandemic.