Five COVID-19 Induced Changes For Healthcare Workers That Will Stick Around

Derek Jones talks about how the pandemic will shape healthcare in the coming years.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed healthcare delivery and consumption around the world. The severity of this disease and the rate at which it spread disrupted healthcare responsiveness in all aspects. It fueled innovations in healthcare delivery in a very short time, which brought significant positive changes in healthcare approaches.

More importantly, most of these changes will stick around even post COVID-19 because people received them quite well. In this article, we highlight four of these COVID-19 changes that will continue to be practiced by healthcare workers after the pandemic.

1. Telehealth and telemedicine

COVID-19 caused a huge acceleration in the practice of telehealth. In the US alone, the use of telehealth grew from 19% in 2019 to 46% in 2020. Healthcare providers had to scale up their offerings because there was a massive exponential growth in the number of patients serviced via telehealth.

Pre-COVID-19, telehealth and telemedicine mainly serviced those who needed urgent virtual care. However, the increase in the adoption and consumption of telehealth saw healthcare workers extending telehealth beyond urgent virtual care. There was a big expansion in the types of health services available in telehealth, prompted by the lifting of many regulatory restrictions.

Consequently, at least 89% of people under the age of 55 were reported to have booked their medical appointments online this year, instead of walking in. Likewise, most healthcare workers were able to carry out risk assessments virtually.

Most importantly, telehealth was a catalyst to safer patient-centric experiences. It helped reduce the risks associated with COVID-19 infections. As a result, this shift to telehealth and telemedicine will stay post COVID-19 because patients value the flexibility and safety it offers. 

2. Reliance on data analytics in healthcare

The use of data analytics by healthcare institutions was already on the rise pre COVID-19. However, the pandemic accelerated data reliance in healthcare even more. From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, data analytics played an integral part in shaping the responsiveness of healthcare institutions.  Big amounts of data were collected during the pandemic. Data was collected at testing sites, in hospitals, clinical studies, and on social media. The result was tracking and monitoring global patient outcomes through data. They were also able to anticipate future healthcare demands through data analytics.

Furthermore, through data insight, healthcare institutions were able to better identify the patients more at risk from contracting the disease. These predictive analyses enabled them to determine hospital capacity shortages and staff shortages in advance. Almost all important healthcare decisions made during the pandemic were supported by data.

Post COVID-19, health workers will continue relying on data insights. They realized the value of data, so data tracking will be extended to other prevailing diseases like HIV, cancer, and diabetes to unearth new healthcare solutions.

3. Data democratization

Another interesting data trend that manifested during the pandemic was data democracy. In their efforts to develop the best vaccine for the COVID-19 disease, important health information that would not have been available to everyone  pre COVID-19 was published. This democratization of data fostered collaboration amongst healthcare globally. It also fuelled the innovation that was needed in the development of COVID-19 vaccines.

Going forward, healthcare providers are going to arm their healthcare workers with all necessary information and knowledge so that they make smart decisions and also provide better patient care. By giving everyone the same level of access to information in healthcare, healthcare inequalities across the world will be gradually abolished. An increase in data democratization will be an important step towards making healthcare a public good post covid.

4. Distributed care

Another big shift in healthcare brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic was an increase in access to primary care medical services. Healthcare workers were testing people for COVID-19 in the comfort of their workplaces and homes. This service was very convenient for people so post COVID-19, we are likely to continue to see healthcare workers in all the areas where we hang out. This is the notion of distributed care.

Distributed care is a system whereby care is formally redistributed from hospitals and clinics to home care, workplaces, etc. By taking primary health care to where people reside, hospitals will now mainly serve secondary care. The biggest advantage of this new system will be affordable healthcare. By eliminating the overhead costs that come with medical facilities, there will be a reduction in medical costs.

5. Automated scheduling systems

When the pandemic hit, shift work management became crucial because it was important to avoid understaffing and overstaffing at the same time. One of the biggest game-changers for healthcare institutions during the pandemic was using scheduling software for healthcare.

Automated scheduling systems came to the rescue because they helped hospitals to plan their staffing in advance. Even more amazing is the fact that these systems offered healthcare workers real-time communication and the flexibility to choose and swap shifts by themselves. This led to improved  healthcare efficiencies, so the use of these scheduling softwares will continue after the pandemic.

Final remarks

The devastating effects of the pandemic are evident in each sphere of the healthcare sector. But along with these scars came opportunities that positively disrupted healthcare systems forever. This new normal for healthcare workers will assist in future healthcare preparedness should another pandemic come, and should therefore be fully embraced.

Derek Jones

Derek spearheads key initiatives at Deputy, a global workforce management platform for employee scheduling, timesheets and communication.  With a focus on healthcare, Derek helps business owners and workforce leaders simplify employment law compliance, keep labor costs in line and build award-winning workplaces. Derek has over 16 years’ experience in delivering data-driven sales and marketing strategies to SaaS companies like MarketSource and Griswold Home Care.