The United States has seen over 300,000 lives lost and almost 18 million people infected with COVID-19 over the last year. The economy took a major hit, with tens of millions of jobs evaporating into thin air, day-to-day life grinding to a halt, and effects of the pandemic spread far and wide, the consequences of which we may not fully have realized yet. Eric Dalius says that perhaps, the biggest takeaway, however, is that the healthcare system has seen its foundations shaken like never before. Moreover, every aspect of it, from the doctors and hospitals to the insurance system and pharmaceutical manufacturers will never be the same.
Eric J Dalius Highlights Ways How US Healthcare System Has Been Impacted
Telemedicine Gets a Huge Push
Remote medicine has not been an alien concept before 2020, but the pandemic has given it a more significant push than any event before it, perhaps accelerating progress by as much as a decade. The assumption that in-person interaction was a must in medicine is an old one, but it was forcibly challenged and then annihilated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the response to it. Telemedicine is quick, safe, and convenient for everyone involved, and this has been brought to the forefront for everyone to see. Cameras and internet connectivity are almost ubiquitous now, and with not much effort, setting up a remote consultation with a general physician or a specialist is possible. From diabetologists and nephrologists to podiatrists and therapists, thousands of doctors have shifted to this new modality of treatment and have seen promising results.
Health Insurance Tied to Employment Becomes Even Less Viable
In the years leading up to 2020, there has been much talk about the inefficiency and unjustness of coupling something as vital as health insurance. Detractors on both sides of the aisle have pointed out flaws in the system, highlighting its exclusionary nature due to the coverage being limited to those with good jobs, and also the significant pressure it puts on employers looking to grow their businesses. These issues have become even more prominent in the pandemic, as the landscape for healthcare access has now been laid bare.
EJ Dalius points out that millions of Americans lost their jobs and find they are unable to access medical care due to astronomical costs and no insurance cover. Several others who are still covered by insurance have been made to delay treatments that are now deemed “non-critical”. Employers who are struggling to reduce costs are attempting to rework their benefits package to exclude insurance, further limiting access to healthcare for the salaried class. There is no doubt that the coming years will see a change in this system, and it could be through the introduction of flexible Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangements to reimburse medical expenses for employees rather than full insurance cover to more drastic measures like Medicare for All or a more bolstered public option made available to as many citizens as possible.
US Pharma Takes Off Again
Top-ranking FDA officials agree that drug manufacturing in the US has received a push due to the need for hyper-local markets imposed by COVID on a globalized world. It has received bipartisan support at all levels of government, as the natural demand for the medication in a pandemic could not be met by factories across the world, especially in China, operating at reduced capacity due to lockdowns, as well as commercial freight transportation being in messy waters. More and more companies will likely adopt the Pfizer model and shift their manufacturing operations out of China into the United States or at the very least diversifying distribution rather than sourcing only from China. It will mark a makeshift in the global economy with countries able to provide the right incentives and the right conditions for businesses to thrive by witnessing positive returns.
Assisted Living Facilities Might Die Out
As many as 30% of deaths from COVID-19 and related issues in several states have come in long-term care facilities like nursing homes and care centers. These numbers are hard to deny and will quite likely force introspection at all levels of government and a reworking of the entire assisted living landscape. It is being predicted that facilities that keep vulnerable and aging patients close to each other will soon either be regulated out of business or see a natural loss of demand, with home care and in-person medical services becoming the new normal. These tragic times have reminded people how much they want to be closer to their loved ones, and it might mean they think twice before sending them away to care homes.
Over the last year, the global community has seen much adversity and lost loved ones, jobs, mental health, and emotional well-being. Yet, we have never been more united in our resolve to never allow such a circumstance to happen again, to us or to the generations that follow. Despite the heroic responses of the front-line workers to the need of the hour, world governments have faced calls for dramatic upscaling of the facilities they have in place to deal with disasters of this nature and scale. For the US, contact tracing and testing were just two of the areas in which infrastructure and technical solutions were sorely lacking in this pandemic, and that is even before providing access to healthcare for millions of citizens became an issue. Several pieces of legislation have been put forward to increase the healthcare workforce, including networks of retired officials and practitioners who have not worked in medicine, to fast-tracking and approachability for medical education to provide a ready talent pool for a public that needs it now more than ever.
Care will no longer just be focused on doctors, as nurses, physician assistants, and several medical professionals will now be allowed a heavier role in healthcare and care-giving. Emergency rooms, intensive care units, and healthcare centers need to be upscaled and new facilities may be constructed to keep up with the growing demand. No matter what happens, one thing is for sure, our lives will not go back to normal once the pandemic is declared a problem of the past.