[Excerpt] 2020 has brought previously unseen challenges upon humankind. A virus that, due to globalisation, spread at an unprecedented speed, stormed the entire planet and there is only one thing that can stop it as it is now: a vaccine. And as I wrote in The Medical Futurist vaccine pledge, if you worry about the long-term consequences (which no data indicate for now after having tested the vaccine on tens of thousands of people and vaccinating already millions), you might want to wait out. But then we’ll be in lockdown for years.
Over the past year several lockdowns have taken place. We adopted new habits, learned and worked through videoconferences, made social distancing an everyday habit and masks a fashion item. But we all hate these, don’t we? So once we have a chance to end the pandemic, I’d say we should go for it; and with several trustworthy and reviewed vaccines available worldwide, the race for vaccination has begun.
In April 2020, we collected what will be the most specific changes we would need to bear even after the pandemic has gone. Almost a year on and the virus still upon us, we are revisiting those statements and having a look at all those things we expected and forecast: what will surely change, what has the chance to change and what shouldchange in the future. Our 2021 updates are clearly marked within the topics.
What will surely change
We’ve seen it all during this global public health crisis; overwhelmed hospitals forcing patients to sleep on the floor; mounting fear of being in proximity to others; but also the importance of a robust healthcare system. As a consequence of our collective and individual experiences throughout the pandemic, things will change in the healthcare landscape. Below we discuss three of the most significant changes we’ll experience.
1. An unprecedented toll on healthcare workers
What we wrote:
During this global tragedy, it’s not only the economy or the population that’s being affected but also the healthcare professionals on the frontlines. The latter are enduring extreme work conditions and sacrifices in order to help the infected. Despite a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), they show up to work using DIY-solutions like ski goggles and bin bags with a high risk of being infected. Many are working overtime and witnessed patient after patient succumb to the disease.
“The anxiety of knowing you might be at risk when you’re doing your job can be very challenging for health care workers,” says Terri Rebmann, a nurse researcher and director of the Institute for Biosecurity at Saint Louis University. “It’s physically and mentally draining.” This will lead to an inevitable spike in burnouts among the healthcare staff. Before the novel coronavirus, some estimated nearly half of the world’s 10 million physicians had symptoms of burnout. Now imagine after COVID-19…
More than burnouts, we will see frontliners with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After this pandemic subsides, we will have to brace ourselves for the aftermath on medical professionals on the frontlines.
This is one of the saddest and most depriving moments in the history of medicine. All of the above are still underway: medical professionals being emotionally drained, leaving the field, having mental health issues and burnout. Institutions, governments and even the direct management of medical facilities realised this way too late and are now rushing to provide support to staff with direct counselling, online support or via applications – with mixed results. And once the vaccination brings down case numbers, patients with chronic illnesses will return to the system and meet a totally burned out, exhausted personnel.
2. Diminishing trust in the globalized world
What we wrote:
In the pre-pandemic globalized world, we enjoyed a certain level of trust we mostly took for granted. We could travel almost without limitations, meet people without restrictions and order products worldwide. This will simply change after billions of people had to stay indoors for weeks.
We will not be able to travel that freely or enjoy the supply chains of the world so easily. We will think twice before going somewhere or meeting someone. The pandemic is already exacerbating signs of social anxiety and agoraphobia. Regaining trust takes time and these trends will take place for months after lockdowns are lifted.
By now we would all happily choose to stay at home “for weeks” as written above; in reality, we have been as good as closed down for months. Working from the office, meeting our besties, planning a vacation and travelling freely, grabbing a coffee or going to the gym still seem quite far. And although we have positive takeaways from online meetings (we can be much more effective), home or office is still not a choice but a situation.
Moreover, with so much time spent online, we now have multiple generations glued to the screens and sometimes unknowingly spreading misinformation limitlessly. The next task in this regard will be how to combat fake news, fight anti-vaxxers and gain our lives back again.
3. Focus on the healthcare system
What we wrote:
It’s tragic how the pandemic highlighted the shortcomings of healthcare systems worldwide. The overburdened hospitals need an upgrade on every level from their infrastructures to their processes. These will be needed to ensure a safe environment for the personnel and patients, as well to better cope with any emergency situations.
For example, one of the reasons speculated for Germany’s comparatively low death rate is its good intensive care situation. Digital health showed its aptitude to deal with such a crisis. We can expect to see many governments put more focus on healthcare. They can adopt similar strategies employed by other countries that better managed the crisis. As people in the frontlines of the fight witnessed, with inefficient healthcare systems, we will not be able to handle the next outbreak.
We have seen enormous growth on the technological side of healthcare, experts say the pandemic has advanced the sector by years. We dedicated multiple articles to the topic but you can just start with How COVID-19 Catalysed Digital Health Trends.
However, the cultural transformation was not as fast as the technological one. And in order to benefit from the technological growth we experienced, healthcare participants must leapfrog cultural transformation. With all our channels, outputs and keynotes, The Medical Futurist is on this mission – ask us about it.
To read more, click on: https://medicalfuturist.com/life-after-covid-19-what-will-change/