COVID-19 has forever changed the healthcare industry and the concept of what it means to receive ideal care.
Ideal care is just that: an optimal health system with services that consistently meet patient needs and expectations. As we attempt to navigate the new normal, it’s hard to imagine what the future might look like. However, as we look to the days ahead and prepare for life beyond the pandemic, it’s clear the concept of ideal care will be forever altered in the wake of COVID-19. Here’s how:
7 Ways COVID-19 Has Changed the Concept of Ideal Care
1. Substantial investments in digital health
As a result of social distancing measures, the COVID-19 pandemic drove the rapid acceleration of telehealth services, remote patient monitoring, digital therapeutics, and other virtual care options. Although some have questioned whether telehealth and other forms of virtual care will maintain momentum in a post-COVID-19 world, 83 percent of surveyed patients expect to use virtual appointments after the pandemic resolves.
Moving forward, we’re likely to continue seeing an increased focus on investing in technology that aids in the delivery of quality outpatient care. Patients may be less compelled to schedule in-office appointments, especially for less serious illnesses or routine check-ins for prescription renewals.
2. Less focus on employer-based health insurance
The fact that so many newly unemployed Americans have lost employer-based insurance is one of the many unfortunate realities of COVID-19. According to a report by Families USA, 5.4 million American workers have lost health insurance due to unemployment since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In many ways, this shift suggests that traditional insurance models may become much less prominent in the future. Instead, experts suggest this could be responsible for the beginning of the end of traditional employer-based health insurance—or at the very least, the need for urgency around securing coverage for uninsured workers during a health crisis like this one.
3. Increased demand for home health aides
Throughout the course of 2020, we’ve seen how COVID-19 has taken a terrible toll on seniors, particularly for residents in nursing homes and assisted living communities. Nursing home residents make up less than 1 percent of the U.S. population, yet account for 40 percent of all COVID-19 deaths to date.
As such, the idea that vulnerable seniors should be housed in close quarters may quickly lose appeal due to the high rates of COVID-19 nursing home deaths. With the safety of long-term care facilities in question, we’ll likely see increasing demand for home health aides and provider house calls on the rise in the future.
4. Changes to manufacturing and efficacy
Supply chain shortages during COVID-19 have introduced significant concerns about the global manufacturing of critical drugs and medical supplies. Earlier this year, we saw healthcare providers struggle due to a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the US. As healthcare leaders look to bring these shortages to an end, we may see drug and supply manufacturing return to the US.
Additionally, COVID-19 has changed the way we measure pharmaceutical efficacy. As researchers work around the clock to bring a new vaccine to market, safety and efficacy claims will likely come from adaptive trials and real-world evidence, as opposed to the usual long-term clinical trials.
5. Newfound awareness of racial disparities
Disproportionate COVID-19 death rates for people of color pinpoint the need to address disparities and emphasize how the social determinants of health (SDOH) can impact patient care and outcomes. In the US, COVID-19 infection rates are three times higher in predominantly Black communities. Worse yet, the mortality rate is six times higher in Black counties compared to white counties.
This newfound awareness may lead to an increased focus on closing racial and socioeconomic gaps for better, more well-rounded care for all patient populations. By addressing social determinants and the impact they have on patient health and wellness, the healthcare community can improve care quality (not to mention equality) as a whole.
6. Emphasis on disaster preparedness strategies
There’s no question COVID-19 took providers and healthcare organizations by surprise, ultimately showcasing the need to build out enhanced disaster preparedness strategies. Placing an emphasis on disaster preparation will likely lead to “a new era of healthcare preparedness” to ensure health systems are better equipped to handle an infectious disease disaster like COVID-19.
Just having a disaster preparedness plan may not be enough; a survey revealed that although 73 percent of rural community pharmacies had a disaster preparedness plan in place before COVID-19, 27 percent of those plans were deemed inadequate for the pandemic. Plus, nearly 70 percent of pharmacies experienced negative impacts in medication supply, clearly indicating the need for updated disaster preparedness strategies.
7. Opportunities for non-physician care delivery
Amidst COVID-19, overextended emergency rooms and intensive care units (ICUs) have allowed non-physicians such as nurses, physician assistants, and pharmacists to play a bigger role in care delivery. Many pharmacies are expanding on their clinical care services to offer immunizations, point-of-care testing, diagnostic screenings, medication therapy management (MTM), medical equipment and supplies, and more.
Empowering pharmacists to offer patient care services not only provides much-needed support during times of crisis when resources are limited, but it also improves access to a healthcare provider in rural areas that are far away from a hospital or primary care physician (PCP).
Investing in Modern Technology to Deliver Ideal Patient Care
COVID-19 has not only introduced opportunities to improve healthcare as we’ve known it, but it has also created opportunities for independent pharmacists to step up to the plate as trusted community caregivers. With that being said, pharmacists need access to modern pharmacy technology in order to truly rise to the occasion.
Today, advanced, cloud-based solutions empower pharmacies to work more efficiently, expand their clinical care services, and ensure they’re billing appropriately and accurately reimbursed for the services they provide. To gain a competitive advantage and keep up with big-box retail stores, independent pharmacists in particular can benefit from embracing digital solutions that will help scale up their business and improve profitability—even during tough times.