COVID-19 has already led to a devastating loss of close to 1, 50,000 lives in the US and a dramatic disruption to our lifestyles. We all know that the US health care system has responded to the present crisis situation in a multitude of ways. Some of these changes to the health systems are good without any doubt. On the other hand, some other changes are not so good. The rapid initiation of testing, treatments, and clinical trials for COVID-19 is certainly appreciable. However, nursing layoffs resulting from decreased practice revenue and margin, reduction in diagnostic testing and specialty care for non-COVID-19 patients, and the cancellation of elective surgeries are not really welcome changes.
Dealing with COVID-19 has directly resulted in certain notable changes such as expanded telehealth services, greater need for mental health services, and managing the stress associated with supply-chain management of diagnostic and serologic testing, essential medicines, and personal protective equipment (PPE). Mismatch between the type of available health staff and health care needs have also been observed.
As it is likely that we have deal with the curse of COVID-19 for a few more months, noted Emergency Medicaid provider FreedomCare discusses certain changes that can make the US health care system more capable and effective when normalcy is restored.
More Stress on Public Health: At present, most of the medical schools do not sufficiently empathize on the emergence and spreading of infective diseases. Following COVID-19, it is important to ensure that the next generation of doctors have a better understanding of the role of data science, epidemiology, biostatistics, viral genomics, disease surveillance, and non-pharmaceutical interventions in addressing various public health issues. It is also important that we learn from what worked for COVID-19 and what did not.
Understanding the Importance of Evidence-Based Care: The high mortality of COVID-19 and the urgency to overcome the pandemic has lead to a significant increase in efforts to come up with treatments and potential vaccines, enroll patients in clinical trials, and adopt new methodologies of treatment. This should pave the way for the creation of global data sets and integration of machine learning and artificial intelligence in key specialties such as diagnostic medicine and radiology.
Spare Capacity Creation: As we understood the severity of COVID-19, all the American states tried their best to create surge capacity. However, the larger question of staffing these facilities with an adequate number of clinicians remained unanswered. Though most of the states started accepting out-of-state licenses, this was not a successful model because the pandemic was impacting all states across the nation.
A State Health Corps comprising of in-training as well as retired clinicians was created by California to address this staff shortage. This was an extremely successful endeavor, and could well become a national model in the near future.
Delivery of Better and More Accessible Mental Healthcare Services: Owing to their stressful nature, pandemics can very easily exacerbate mental health conditions. We have already heard of an increasing number of mental health issues and suicides since the COVID-19 crisis started. However, over the years, access to mental health care services in America has sometimes been unethically limited and uneven.
The need of the hour is to ensure better enforcement of the existing federal laws that require maintaining parity in terms of mental health service coverage. Greater and easier access to caregivers should also be ensured, both virtually as well as in-person.
Helping Healthcare Providers Remain in Business: COVID-19 has already crippled the health care system that is our only hope against the pandemic. Unfortunately, this has happened at a time when the healthcare system is expected to invest in creating additional testing capacity, mobilizing additional workers, and PPE. To stay protected from sudden drops in demand and revenue, many health care providers may soon opt for a per-patient-per month fee arrangement. Also, additional incentives can be provided to hospitals for creating buffer capacity for handling emergency situations like this.