The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the healthcare ecosystem and become the catalyst for changes we expected a decade from now. And I feel that many of these changes will be sustained in some form or the other, even after the pandemic subsides.
In the year 2020, science and public health were debated and worked upon the most. The pandemic caused many operational and financial complication for healthcare organizations. But as Sun Tsu says, in the midst of chaos, there is also an opportunity. The major health crisis has led to many disruptive innovations, especially in healthcare delivery models. Holistic healthcare, virtual care, preventive care, new rapid assays using various type of samples, standardization of testing and treatment protocols, integration of mental-health care, primary, and tertiary care are among the future trends.
Digital health has been a major gainer. The benefits of digital health have always been unquestionable, but the hurdle was the adoption of these changes, as it required investments not only in infrastructure but also a change in operational methods and work culture. It is a time to invest and capitalise on artificial intelligence, bioinformatics, data analytics, developing new algorithms and improving upon bioinformatics. Era of digital health has now arrived!
I think diagnostic companies are now fast gearing up and ready to invest in improving the service delivery processes. Home sample collection, at home testing using POC devices and rapid kits, use of calibrated self-monitoring and wearable devices, adopting digital tools for better patient engagement and safety measures, are few of the important advancement and urgent need.
More investments in new rapid testing technologies, molecular assays (from prevention to early diagnosis to prediction of disease course), automation, innovative logistic and real time tracking of inventory and samples are an area we are definitely looking forward to. Developments of new wellness biomarkers, better preventive health assays and personalised diagnosis with risk scores is on the card.
Pandemic has accelerated laboratory and clinical trial collaboration. I am optimistic that this should help in investments in R&D, more clinical trials and simplify regulatory approvals in the future. Investments in accreditation and quality assurance programmes will gain focus and will be worth for building a robust future.
Another area we should be looking for is, providing correct and authenticated health care information and pre/post diagnostic counselling. Tele-consultations have grown multi-fold and will stay. Patients and clinicians, both look for rapid alerts and want to discuss the report’s clinical implication. Thus, diagnostic providers need to invest more in multi – skilled manpower and have regular training and updating programmes.
The pandemic has taught us that, if healthcare policy makers and providers (both government and private) work in close collaboration, the results can be phenomenal, not only in healthcare delivery but also in improving upon the quality and making it affordable to all.
The pandemic has shown us the medical science fiction story in real. We are living with it, breathing it, and now there is a need to move forward with it, with strong hope and positivity. A robust healthcare system has always been our need, but the real question is, as we fight against the virus and move ahead in the year 2021, can we ensure that some good learnings from this pandemic become permanent and how we adopt and improve upon healthcare. As Charles Darwin said, it is not the strongest of the species that survives, or the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change. We need to adopt to the change at a rapid pace.
With the availability of vaccine, this year has started off with more optimistic note. We found it difficult to control the pandemic, but we can now surely control how we deal with everything around it.