COVID-19 marks a paradigm shift. Everything is set to change. It has altered the ways we go about our personal and professional lives. Education, businesses, policymaking- everything was sent into a tizzy. The pandemic struck out of the blue and everyone was taken unaware. But humans are resilient. We were determined to bounce back. Some industries coped better than others, but without a doubt, COVID-19 has left a mark everywhere.
Healthcare is the industry that has witnessed a sea change, probably more than any other sector. The pandemic has been the front and center of the medical services industry. And the tidal wave of changes has not yet abated. Each new day brings new challenges, new solutions, and the realization that new measures need to be adopted.
Increased prevalence of online medical care
For most people, medical consultation meant booking an appointment with a doctor at a clinic and showing up in time. Or visiting the family physician. But COVID-19 put an end to all that with the urgent need of staying home to prevent transmission of the dreaded virus.
This naturally gave way to the rise of online medical consultations. Both doctors and patients eagerly embraced the new norm as there is no alternative. Via zoom, Google, and similar video communication arrangements, patients began to consult doctors.
This trend is perpetuating. People who were hesitant have now been won over by the sheer convenience of this setup. No more waiting for your turn, no more commuting all the way to the clinic.
Similarly, the online purchase of medication has gained traction. People now prefer to have their medicines, health supplements, and self-care products delivered to their homes. Online pharmacies such as PharmEasy, 1mg, Practo, to name a few, have come together to the aid of the common people.
The demand rose sharply shortly after the implementation of the lockdown and online pharmacies scrambled to deliver needful medication on time, working around the clock to honor the faith people placed in them.
This trend is likely to continue, with attractive discounts, ease of medical consultation, and convenience, many people will opt for online healthcare services.
But the old ways cannot be replaced entirely. For some health conditions, physical examinations need to be carried out. So clinics will never go out of business.
Telehealth is set to spread
During the pandemic, medical services across the world, but especially in India reeled under the bulk of the caseload. There simply aren’t enough beds to facilitate the hundreds of thousands of infected people. That is why governments stressed the need for self-isolation of cases that are mild. But even so, arrangements were made to allow regular follow-up of the patient’s condition over the telephone. Assessment, alteration of medication, confirmation of temperature, or blood oxygen readings began to be done via telephonic communication with local healthcare authorities appointed by the government.
Telehealth can revolutionize the healthcare system in a country like India where there are far too few doctors and healthcare providers. Thankfully mobile phones have penetrated the most remote corners of the country. If governments make healthcare services through telecommunication accessible to people who would otherwise have to travel miles just for simple consultations, lakhs of people would benefit. And COVID-19 has proved that it can be done!
Preventive healthcare takes a backseat
COVID-19 induced many people to opt-out of preventive health check-ups. But tests such as colonoscopies, blood and urine tests, mammograms are essential in not just preventing but also managing many disorders. But the fear of contracting COVID-19 made many people refuse to step out for these vital tests. This is a worrying concern for the healthcare industry.
A part of the issue can be resolved. Online pharmacies tie-up with pathological labs and people can undergo blood and urine tests at their home and have their reports delivered via email. But now the focus is likely to shift to convincing people that the gains outrank the risks when it comes to preventive health checks.
Health insurance policy can be a savior
COVID-19 has turned out to be a reality check. People have been confronted with the fact that their health can give out at any moment. Medical services are expensive and without a healthcare policy, some forms of treatment may not be affordable. That is why India has seen more than a 30% rise in the purchase of medical insurance policies. It is excellent news in India where the awareness of the need for insurance coverage is abysmal.
A country’s development can be measured in terms of how advanced its healthcare industry is. COVID-19 has made India realize that in many ways our medical services are in shambles. Things are sure to look up.