The healthcare industry has displayed sheer resilience and the ability to react quickly to humanity's worst crisis in the last century. But the crisis is far from over. The healthcare industry must continue to innovate and expand its capabilities to deal with the COVID-19 crisis and the economic crisis as a result of it. Hospitals and other larger healthcare centers are operating with changing protocols, while continuing to care for patients, often against the backdrop of vulnerable staff, supply shortages, and financial troubles. The shift in consumer behavior and the economic crisis will mean that healthcare companies would have to bring about fundamental changes to their business. This means the crisis has left no option for healthcare leaders but to innovate.
Healthcare innovation - Prosperity in adversity
History reminds us that those who invest in innovation amidst a crisis, are the ones who are not only likely to emerge stronger but also thrive. The added sense of urgency as a result of the crisis breaks organisational hierarchy, makes way for a collaborative effort, and overcomes institutional inertia. For instance, in the US, Zipline which specialises in the delivery of medical supplies to the remotest of areas formed a collaboration with Novant Health in North Carolina to distribute medical supplies to hospitals via drones. In Israel, Sheba medical center in partnership with Tytocare is working to keep patients affected by the virus at home by providing them with specialised stethoscopes that listen to their hearts and send images of their lungs to doctors who can intervene when necessary.
The era of telehealth and telemedicine
The term telehealth includes a broad range of technologies and services to provide patient care and improve the healthcare delivery system as a whole. Thanks to the pandemic, the adoption of telehealth has exploded from 11% in 2019 to a whopping 46% in April 2020. Healthcare providers too stated that they were comfortable with the telehealth method of giving medical care. Telemedicine, on the other hand, is a subset of telehealth that refers solely to the provision of health care services and education over a distance, through the use of telecommunications technology.
Telemedicine has had a profound impact on the healthcare industry and is increasingly being used to treat symptomatic patients with the virus. Apart from the virus, telehealth solutions are being deployed to treat other medical ailments and provide routine checkups thereby minimising the spread of the virus. Telehealth technologies can also be used to deliver chronic medicines to patient homes directly.
Telehealth and telemedicine are also a very important tool when it comes to solving socio-economic challenges the healthcare system is facing globally. It will play a pivotal role in the optimisation of health resources, improving the management of demand, reduction of hospital stays, reducing the number of trips, etc. All of this will help expand access to affordable healthcare, thereby ensuring even the underprivileged have access to it. However, there are challenges that the healthcare industry is facing when it comes to telehealth.