It’s no stretch to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed some glaring issues in healthcare systems worldwide. Many countries were overwhelmed with demand, and the virus’s unexpected ferocity spread worldwide placed healthcare providers under more strain than they could have ever imagined.
Now the world is scrambling to get back to normal, and hospital admissions have reduced in many areas; what happens to the exposed inefficiencies and vulnerabilities now? How will the healthcare system recover and reduce the backlog created by focusing on COVID-positive patients?
It won’t be an easy recovery by far. However, things need to change, and in the wake of some of the most harrowing scenes witnessed in many years by hospital personnel, there is an increased chance of positive and more practical changes being made.
Restarting Elective Surgery
Elective procedures are once again becoming available in India as the country’s lockdown is lifted. However, they are not always easily accessible. In addition to the additional precautions required in terms of personal protective equipment for the entire surgical personnel, necessary Covid-19 tests, and other sanitization procedures, surgery costs have climbed by Rs 6,000 to Rs 10,000.
Another thing that became glaringly obvious was that India’s reliance on private healthcare exposed massive failings in the public healthcare system, which was overwhelmed and unable to increase capacity. This is evident in the low vaccination rate and the vaccine implementation policy in India.
Going forward, the public healthcare system must adapt to the changing landscape and avoid the type of failings seen in 2020/2021.
How can healthcare providers learn from the pandemic and move forward?
Empower Frontline Staff
It is necessary to dismantle organizational silos before the crisis and foster collaboration to ensure that the frontline clinical community identifies and delivers the most beneficial improvements. Clinicians must be not only providers of ideas but also leaders of implementation projects to keep the pace and engagement high while ensuring the success of rehabilitation plans. Provide them with defined and mutually agreed-upon objectives to serve as a guide. To guarantee that the intended improvements are implemented with the appropriate consistency, detail, and decision-making level, multidisciplinary teams composed of clinical leaders and representatives from operational departments, the program management office, and the executive team should be established.
A wide range of activities for recovery and reset will need to be carried out, from short-term, high-impact initiatives to more strategic and revolutionary long-term ones. Parallel rather than sequential planning and implementation are recommended. Choose a few quick wins to pursue over the next two to four weeks; examples include telemedicine for outpatient appointments, community collaborations, and critical–care capacity management, among others. Spend more attention on longer-term objectives, such as system-wide clinical facility layouts and specialist pathway optimization, which require more resources. These activities must be prioritized and sequenced to guarantee sufficient organizational capacity and the expected benefits are delivered.
By now, healthcare teams will have a good idea of what processes need overhauling and what type of technology can help them hit the ground running in the face of another pandemic. While a new pandemic won’t be on the cards shortly, COVID is still rampaging around the world; Europe particularly is seeing a significant resurgence and increased cases of late.
Increasing efficiencies using technology and automation can help you free up staff and improve the patient experience overall. Using the most integrated hospital contract management software to manage contracts and payments can help you to stay on top of invoicing and payments and adjust your needs accordingly.
Automated appointment systems, test reporting, and patient management can help to improve appointment times, diagnostics and reduce wait times for different procedures. It can also improve the management of a healthcare clinic by offering streamlined processes behind the scenes, such as reduced paper billing for procedures, correct assignment of insurance payments, and new patient onboarding, to name a few.
The health systems with the most resilience and agility will recover from recent crises, plan for the future, and permanently improve their processes.
Ultimately, healthcare providers will feel the strain of the pandemic for some time to come. However, it is never too early to start looking to best prepare for a future past COVID and improve your practice or best meet the needs of your community. Take stock of where you excelled during this period and areas you can improve on to help you make the right changes in the right places to support your medical center as it needs.