2020 was a rough year for the healthcare industry. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a huge surge of patients and an increased demand for healthcare staff and medical resources. Since the coronavirus was easily transmissible, patient management became a significant challenge as the need to protect clinical staff, other patients and their families had to be a priority.
While many patients infected with COVID-19 have mild and/or asymptomatic disease, there are others who become severely ill. Many of these patients require hospitalization and the need for mechanical ventilation.
As the healthcare industry continues to battle with the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 revealed several areas within healthcare systems that need attention. It is evident that things need to change but what will be the specific direction required to better prepare healthcare systems for a similar crisis in the future? The second wave is already here, and 2021 will continue to be a challenge. What trends are we likely to see in 2021? Here is a quick overview:
1COVID-19 safety protocols will remain
The coronavirus, so far, is not going anywhere. We already see new variants of the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, and as per reports, these new viruses are even more transmissible than the original COVID-19. Hence, safety protocols in healthcare facilities, as well as other public places, are likely to continue. This will include hand sanitizing stations, temperature screening, and other safety protocols that have been implemented during COVID-19. In fact, we may just see these protocols as a permanent feature in hospitals and in everyday medical practice.
2Greater demand for healthcare professionals
The COVID-19 pandemic revealed shortages that exist within healthcare systems. When the pandemic was at its peak, and patient flows were excessive, there was a shortage of both nurses and physicians. Many hospitals had no choice but to turn to non-ICU staff and non-ICU doctors as the number of patients requiring critical care increased. The need for better healthcare administrators was also clearly evident. In the months to comes, demand for healthcare professionals, whether it’s in the area of clinical management or hospital administration, is likely to increase.
3Virtual healthcare and remote medicine
One of the most important changes in 2020 was the increase in the use of telemedicine and virtual care. Telemedicine is not something new, but it was only because of the situation of the coronavirus pandemic that the use of this technology increased rapidly. This trend is likely to continue, and the utilization of virtual care will increase at a rapid pace. This will be especially useful for management of patients with chronic illness, the elderly, disabled, those with limited access to transport, and those requiring mental health support. Telemedicine is here to stay, and we can expect to see significant advancement in this particular area.
4Changes in health insurance
With the change in the White House and with President Joe Biden taken the reins in his hands, it is expected that the Affordable Care Act will come back in full force once again. In future, we will see greater collaboration between health insurance providers and hospitals and medical practices. The use of wearable technology has also expanded in the last few years, and as the adoption of new technology continues to happen in healthcare, it is expected that health insurance providers will also start using advanced predictive technology to better understand risk and more accurately set premiums.
5More reliance on data science and AI
The healthcare industry is known for its slow adoption of advanced technology, but slowly and gradually, healthcare providers realize the benefits of Artificial Intelligence and data science. The healthcare industry collects a huge amount of data. But now, it is moving towards using AI for more comprehensive therapeutic, diagnostic and descriptive analytics. AI is also a useful technology for early detection and diagnosis, improved treatment, drug development, interpretation of clinical trial data and improved patient outcomes.
6More attention to mental health
Mental health is one area in healthcare that has always been neglected. However, over the years, awareness about the need for improved mental health services has increased. With COVID-19, this issue has become even more important because the pandemic has seen a surge in anxiety, depression and suicide rates. More people now work from home with less interaction with coworkers, people are forced to remain in isolation, social interaction has become minimal, domestic violence has also increased, and the overall social network has changed. These changes have had an impact on people’s mental health, and that is why, in the months to come, attention to mental health issues will continue to grow, and better strategies and management practices are likely to be introduced.