In the 21st Century, the world is going through a rapid transformation. Every sector is evolving because of digitalization, increasing global mean age, changing ideas. The healthcare system is also going through perpetual change. People were already reassessing traditional ideas about healthcare, but the pandemic has made things worse.
Before COVID-19, the American healthcare system was crumbling under the weight of high costs and limited resources. The global shortage of medical professionals and health inequities only added fuel to the fire. And things are not going to get better. According to experts, there will be a shortage of 122,000 American physicians in the next two decades.
To add to the problems, American medical professionals faced a vacuum of leadership in the pandemic. From PPE shortages to slow testing, American healthcare leaders consistently behaved poorly. Leaders deliberately ignored scientific data in favor of opinion leaders and political sycophants, turning a public health crisis into a national tragedy. And as COVID-19 continues to claim more lives, the time for change is now.
During this time, front-line workers had to deal with the situation without any support. According to The Institute of Medicine, effective leadership addresses these issues and helps bring reform to the healthcare system.
It is time for leaders to step up and assist them. Healthcare executives with online mph degrees can help front-line workers mitigate the personal risks of COVID-19. There are several ways they can help the workforce.
Focus on mental health:
Healthcare workers face traumatic situations every day. Even before the pandemic, more than 60 percent of physicians reported high burnout rates. While factors range from administrative burdens to poor infrastructure, repeated practice trauma is the primary reason for physician burnout.
Doctors often have to face distressing situations, and they cannot provide any meaningful help to the patient. This loss of autonomy makes the situation stressful. The pandemic put all of this in high gear. Medical professionals worked tirelessly in crisis mode during the initial days of the pandemic. They had to deal with patients gasping for breath because of acute equipment shortages.
According to research by ICN, healthcare professionals are facing mass trauma. Mass PTSD will be a challenge for healthcare leaders in the next few years. Healthcare executives will have to provide mental health initiatives and resources for workers. Fortunately, the current administration is already taking steps to address this issue. The latest COVID-19 Relief Package dedicates $8.5 billion to funding for healthcare providers.
The healthcare system was already grappling with health equity, but the pandemic brought the situation into focus. Unequal access to healthcare, lack of education, and economic instability make people more vulnerable to severe illness. Unfortunately, discrimination within the healthcare system is also common. According to research by the University of Michigan, one in five patients has to face discrimination.
Therefore, racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by the virus. Lack of diversity also impacts care delivery models. Patients often complain that healthcare professionals are culturally insensitive. Leaders can address this issue with a diverse workforce. They can foster trust in the healthcare system and resolve deep-rooted structural racism by increasing diversity. Leaders will have to support diversity programs to counter health inequities.
Focus on safety measures:
The PPE shortages are another tale of disappointment. Nurses and doctors had to treat patients without any personal protection equipment. Not only did they have to treat people suffering from the virus, but they also had to save themselves from infections. Several nurses created homemade PPE out of their limited resources. Others had to share with fellow medical professionals.
More than 80 percent of nurses had to reuse single-use disposable masks, while 27 percent of them had come in contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients. Unsurprisingly, medical professionals started getting sick, and more than 3,600 American health workers died in the first year. Healthcare institutions have a moral and legal duty to ensure the safety of their employees. They have to place a renewed interest in improving their safety guidelines and stocking PPE.
Use virtual space:
While telehealth already existed in the 1960s, widespread adoption was relatively slow. However, recent changes during COVID-19 have reduced barriers to telehealth. Telehealth reduces the strain on healthcare systems by reducing patient demand on facilities.
It also reduces the use of PPE by healthcare professionals. Telehealth became popular during the pandemic. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, more than 9 billion people used telehealth to receive care.
Experts believe that telehealth is here to stay, and returning to the status quo is akin to ignoring innovation. While telehealth cannot replace in-person care, it can become an additional access point for patients. Therefore, healthcare leaders will have to invest in virtual modalities. They will also have to focus on capacity building and training to make healthcare workers proficient in telehealth.
Integrate data for care:
The South Korean model of locating infected patients was an early Covid-19 success story. The East Asian country uses world-leading mobile technology to identify super-spreaders and contain them. Similarly, COVID dashboards provide insights into tracking and monitoring positive cases.
Several countries are already trying to expand healthcare systems to share critical data within a few seconds. These initiatives will help healthcare workers make strategic decisions and make assessments. Healthcare leaders and policymakers have to invest in dashboards to provide dynamic cross-border support.
Adequate child care:
During the pandemic, doctors and nurses had to put in long emergency shifts to deal with the crisis. More than 1 in 3 healthcare workers have young children at home. The long work hours and social distancing protocols make it impossible for health workers to arrange childcare. According to WHO, millions of health workers struggled to provide babysitting and childcare during the pandemic.
Several countries offered childcare facilities during the peak of COVID-19 for children of healthcare workers. Others provided paid allowances to cover childcare costs during the crises. Healthcare leaders need to understand the necessity of child care benefits for healthcare professionals. They should also allow healthcare workers with child care issues to work from home in some cases.
As countries increase vaccination drives, a return to normal is on the horizon. While this is good news, healthcare officials must not ignore the lessons they learned in the past year. They must take this opportunity to course correction to introduce meaningful reforms within the sector. Policymakers have to remain proactive and use the latest technology to make decisions. With the correct leadership and political will, we can better prepare ourselves for the next crisis.