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Let’s create a new normal

Medicine is a living science that prides itself on continual discovery. In recent years, healthcare innovators have brought us artificial-intelli­gence algorithms that arguably read chest X-rays as well as or better than radiologists, inexpensive genomic sequencing that can guide personalized cancer treatments, and vast improvements in population health management through big data and analytics, to name just a few examples.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has placed unparalleled demands on modern healthcare systems, the industry’s response has vividly demonstrated its resilience and ability to bring innovations to market quickly. But the crisis is likely far from over and the sector’s innovation capabilities must continue to rise to the challenges presented both by COVID-19 and the economic fallout from its spread. While many industries are facing unprecedented disruption, medicine and healthcare are uniquely affected given the nature of this crisis. For example, pharmaceutical companies racing to develop vaccines must also manage complex supply chains, new models for engagement with healthcare professionals, a largely remote workforce, and disruption to many clinical trials. Similarly, hospitals are caring for COVID-19 patients with evolving protocols while maintaining continuity of care for others, often against the backdrop of vulnerable staff, supply and equipment shortages, and, for some, accelerating financial headwinds.

The effects of the pandemic on the industry continue to be profound, and the likely deep and lasting economic impact will potentially affect healthcare companies no less—and quite possibly more—than those in other sectors.

Given the speed of recent changes, it is likely that parts of the healthcare ecosystem will operate in different ways in the coming years. To keep pace with the industry’s evolution, healthcare leaders should consider assessing their organizations’ readiness to innovate at scale and whether the needed capabilities are in place. All innovations should be aimed to provide timely, safe, integrated, equitable, effective, efficient, affordable, accessible quality patient care. This will enable busi­nesses to innovate more successfully and outperform their peers.

The pandemic is considered to have accelerated innovation trends in several sectors, and as the central player in managing the crisis, healthcare stands near the top of the list. It is important, however, that leaders consider balancing short-term needs with longer-term vision and also consider how innovation can not only address the COVID-19 crisis but also build a more resilient healthcare system. Healthcare leaders are considered ahead of their peers in other industries because they are serving on the front lines and innovating while many others are reported to be cutting back. The same concerted innovation effort will likely be critical to recovery. For an industry that thrives through constant discovery, the COVID-19 crisis is both the challenge of a lifetime and a potential catalyst to reaching new heights of achievement.

The healthcare sector is at the epicentre of this unprecedented global pandemic challenge, and the private sector has risen to the occasion, by offering to the government all the support it needs, be it testing support, preparing isolation beds for the treatment of Covid-19 positive patients or deploying equipment and staff in identified nodal hospitals or vaccinating the masses. Here is how a healthcare player can consider applying them to their unique context at this extraordinary time.

Private healthcare providers

  • While the private healthcare sector is fully prepared for every eventuality, it is also a reality that, unlike other sectors, the sector is facing a twin-burden: (a) Investing additional manpower, equipment, consumables and other resources to ensure 100 percent preparedness for safety in the hospital(s) and eventual treatment of patients, if needed. (b) Experiencing a sharp drop in OP footfalls, elective surgeries and international patients.
  • It is expected that for the industry, there will be financial losses and severe impact on cash flows.

India’s medical devices industry

  • The medical devices industry has also taken a hit. The country imports a huge amount of consumables, disposables, and capital equipment from China. Due to the current crisis in China, the medical device manufacturers across India are finding it difficult to source important raw materials and electronic components. The time has come when Indian companies should be supported in healthcare and Make in India and Atmanirbhar Bharat have to support healthcare.
  • Healthcare leaders can learn from the rapid response to the COVID-19 crisis when innovating in future. The industry demonstrated its resilience and ability to bring new products to market quickly.
  • Cost pressures on healthcare systems will likely increase in the coming years.

We are on the leading edge of a self-reinforcing process, promising even greater acceleration ahead. This presents an enticing opportunity for executives who can manage complexity and drive competitiveness.

Let’s not wait to go back to normal, let’s create a new normal.