Healthcare Silver Linings from COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone in one way or another. While 2020 will undoubtedly go down in history as a difficult year, there may be some positive takeaways still. Despite the challenges we have faced around the world, there are some silver linings of the global pandemic from which we can learn and remain optimistic about growth and progress.
1. Unusually Low Flu Cases Across The World
Throughout 2020, we took many measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 such as wearing a mask, socially distancing, and washing our hands frequently. It helped slow the spread of coronavirus, but we did not get completely past the pandemic with this alone. However, taking all of these precautions drastically impacted the influenza virus; another respiratory virus similar to the coronavirus.
In fact, according to the CDC, there was a 98% decrease in influenza activity compared to previous years. Across the board, flu rates are at historical lows in the United States and around the world. Besides the measures put in place because of COVID, another factor in the low incidence rates of influenza is the increase in vaccinations. There have been over 188 million doses of flu vaccines distributed this year, which is an increase of over 19 million doses compared to the same point in 2019 in the US.
It’s not clear if the low rates of the flu will continue in the post-pandemic world, but it will depend upon various factors, and what we’ve learned this past year can certainly improve the overall impact of the flu. People are unlikely to continue social distancing and wearing masks once the coronavirus is no longer a threat, but there may be a higher level of awareness surrounding germs and hand hygiene, which could help reduce the number of yearly flu cases.
It’s possible that if a school becomes highly infected with the flu, that they could switch to virtual learning for a couple of weeks to reduce the community spread. This would be possible because COVID has made the infrastructure available for a school to do this. The same would be possible for many workplaces which have switched to remote working. Additionally, the stigma around staying home sick from work may be reduced, as throughout the pandemic businesses and workers have proved to be successful in working from home.
2. Technological Advancements in Healthcare
As the healthcare system began to better understand the pandemic, they were able to adapt to treat patients more strategically in order to reduce transmission of the coronavirus.
One of the largest growing fields because of this adaptation was telehealth services. Replacing routine office visits with virtual visits is an incredible advancement, although physicians still do have some concerns with completely switching over. Some exams have to be done in person to get a diagnosis that a doctor can be completely confident in, and that won’t change in the near future. On the other hand, mental health services can be done virtually with great effectiveness, and will continue to flourish after the pandemic is over.
With the pandemic pushing telehealth to the forefront, we can definitely expect some positive changes coming soon. One of the biggest concerns with telehealth and telemedicine, is the lack of coverage by insurers, but this has already improved with the CARES Act of 2020 along with other state legislation. Most insurers support an increase in the use of telehealth, and it is expected to continue being covered by more and more insurers in the future.
Telehealth has been growing steadily over the past decade along with the improvements in technology. In fact, from 2005 to 2017, telemedicine visits were growing at a rate of 52% annually. In 2020, telehealth visits were at an high and with all of the successes that it has seen over the course of the pandemic, it will continue to do so, creating easier access to health services for people everywhere.
3. More Flexible Facilities Better Equipped to Handle Future Pandemic
When COVID-19 first hit it the US, it hit hard, and many hospitals and other facilities were not equipped to handle it efficiently. This led to many hospitals scrambling to get the right equipment and PPE for their workers to treat patients for coronavirus, and for other sicknesses and injuries that still occurred.
At this point in the pandemic, most hospitals have been able to get the equipment and supplies they need in order to effectively treat patients without too large of a risk for transmission of COVID-19. One of the largest trends that we’ve seen is equipment that improves a facility's ability to be flexible and adapt to different situations.
This includes all different types of equipment, but the largest focus is on mobile equipment such as medical and supply carts that can be maneuvered around a facility. Furthermore, equipment that can be used to change a room layout, or can be brought to a separate facility like a field hospital has been instrumental in fighting back against the pandemic.
No matter what happens in the future, whether it’s another pandemic or a different type of public health emergency, our hospitals will be better equipped to handle it with both the knowledge and equipment that was gained through the coronavirus pandemic.
Nobody will look at the COVID-19 pandemic as a good era in history, but that’s not to say that no good came out of it. We all hope that we will not have to live through another global catastrophe, but if it does, our hospital system will be better prepared with the knowledge and capabilities to deal with it. Telehealth and other technological advancements in medicine are making it easier to access healthcare for people everywhere, and insurers are starting to better cover these services. Although it’s safe to say most people didn’t enjoy the social distancing and other measures taken to reduce the spread of COVID, we’ve seen how effective it can be in diminishing other viruses and diseases such as influenza. Our world has been overwhelmed with new experiences because of the pandemic, and although it’s been a true test of strength, our healthcare system, and maybe society as a whole, will be much stronger from all the hard lessons learned.
Lakeside is here to offer you various COVID-19 solutions for your healthcare facility!