Dr Rajendra Patankar
CEO
Jupiter Hospital

Impact of COVID on healthcare industry

The coronavirus pandemic has upended the lives of millions of families as health systems buckle, borders close, and schools and businesses shutter. Hospitals scrambled to find enough beds or equipment when the pandemic started to sweep a few months ago. With several months in to the pandemic, today the healthcare industry is better equipped to handle the current situation.

All along the healthcare industry had been seen as a defensive sector that would have minimal/no impact with economic downturns meltdowns. This was due to the impression that demand for healthcare would not fluctuate. However, this notion was proved wrong with the current pandemic. The pandemic resulted in drastic reduction in patient footfalls leading to inadequate utilization of healthcare services by the patients and decrease in medical services volumes which resulted in acute economic crisis in the healthcare industry. This sudden decline in the business of healthcare has had a cascading effect on hospitals ability to sustain fixed costs resulting in an unprecedented impact and an uncertain future about the ability of hospitals to serve their communities and remain financially viable.

Investment for new safety protocols
Jupiter Hospital aims to offer their patients the best possible treatment and care at all times. The covid pandemic is no different, the hospital has invested hugely on new safety protocols for patient and staff safety. Screening protocols ensured that there is proper segregation of patient and staff flow to prevent/minimise any possible infection.

Additionally, screening in Fever OPD keeps all other patients visiting the hospitals safe to an extent as symptomatic cases with fever and respiratory symptoms are evaluated at the Fever OPD itself.

Safety protocol at Jupiter requires all the patients, relatives accompanying their patients and hospital staff to compulsorily use face mask before entering the hospital.

Patients with comorbid conditions such as respiratory illnesses, diabetes or other such illness are given special attention to ensure that other patients in the OPD, as well as the hospital staff are not infected due to transmission. As a best practice all hospital staff have to be using appropriate PPEs to ensure staff and patient safety.

During the initial period of the pandemic the entire healthcare staff at the hospital including doctors, nurses, and the cleaning staff had to be checked regularly for their body temperature to ensure that they are screened and appropriate isolation or infection control policies followed to prevent any possible further spread of the virus.

Sanitization Protocols. Good sanitization practices can reduce and contain the spread of Covid-19. Sanitizers have been installed throughout the OPDs at hospital so that patients, as well as the medical staff, can use it regularly and ensure the safety of all the people around them. Not only this, the furniture in patient care areas, washrooms and the general equipment present in the OPDs were also sanitized on a regular basis.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Personal protective equipment ensures the safety and health of healthcare workers as well as patients. The healthcare staff at Jupiter has been using appropriate PPE diligently throughout the pandemic as it greatly helps minimize the exposure of the body to the virus.

This also helps to reinforce a positive and comforting perception to patients and their relatives using the hospital services. The hospital had to train medical staff about the use of personal protective equipment apart from making policy changes.

Infrastructural changes
Under the circumstances and constraints required for isolation, the hospital have undergone infrastructural changes to set up separate isolation ward, separate ICUs apart from other necessary overhauling for operational purposes.

Separate isolation for Covid-19 positive patients have been crated apart from isolation wards for Covid-19 suspects as per the guidelines specified by the government, even high risk patients have been put in separate wards.

Impact of lockdown, sudden drop of OPD patients

Hospital industry across the globe is going through trying times and our country is no different. Jupiter has also seen a sharp fall in OPD volumes and planned/elective surgeries.

The months since the pandemic started have seen only necessary consultation being conducted which has resulted in severe drop in patient footfalls thereby affecting the revenues.

Furthermore, several industry experts warn of a total crash of the system itself. While the expenses remain fixed or even increased due to high cost of manpower for handling patients and especially those in the Covid care areas, the income generated has been affected to a great extent creating a gap that has been increasing steadily with passage of time. Price capping has further increased the stress for managing cash flows and overall sustainability of the operations.

Telemedicine has emerged as a huge saviour during these challenging times as the COVID-19 virus continues to wreak havoc with the healthcare system. Jupiter has embraced the technology with open arms to respond to the needs of its patients who have contracted the virus and who need to touch base with their providers on the status of their health. While telemedicine is making a very positive contribution to healthcare during the pandemic, however, it has certain limitations when it comes to treating patients during a pandemic. But hospitals as well as patients are learning to adapt to telehealth during this pandemic. It is observed that the acceptability of patients to telemedicine/tele consultation has dramatically increased with upto 20-25 percent of total OPDs happening using this route.

Revenues affected
Elective surgeries at the hospital have been postponed and only emergency procedures were conducted during these times especially during the earlier months of the pandemic which has taken a toll on the financial health. Estimates indicate that hospitals in US are losing more than a billion dollars per day by complying with the guidance from policymakers and the leading medical associations to preserve resources for Covid-19 patients.

Hospitals have to relook at their modus operandi to maintain their sustainability in these trying times and tide over this crisis and devise new operational models for post covid times.

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