Will America’s Healthcare Change for Good Due to COVID-19?

COVID-19 could bring long-term changes to healthcare.

COVID-19 could bring long-term changes to healthcare.

As of October 2020, COVID-19 has claimed over 200,000 lives and cost millions of jobs in the U.S. Beyond creating a “new abnormal” in daily life, the pandemic is prompting many changes throughout the country’s healthcare infrastructure – including doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical manufacturers.

With the coronavirus continuing to spread, it has exposed weaknesses in the country’s healthcare system, forcing those on the front lines to make unimaginable choices and deliver treatment using untested technology. While many areas of society will undoubtedly return to normal after this crisis passes, it’s now clear that the response to COVID-19 could bring long-term changes in how care is delivered and managed. Here are some examples of what the healthcare system could look like after the pandemic:

  • Accelerating the Move to Telemedicine

Telemedicine is certainly not a new phenomenon. But healthcare leaders, administrators, doctors and other medical professionals agree that Covid-19 has pushed the inevitable telemedicine revolution forward by a decade.

  • Moving from Traditional Employer-Based Health Insurance

With most employers looking to reduce costs, many see companies moving to health reimbursement arrangements, or HRAs, to replace traditional employer-paid insurance plans. While giving employers more cost-certainty, HRAs may offer employees more flexibility. No matter – traditional healthcare insurance provided by employers will be changing in one form or another.

  • Replacing Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities with Home Health Aides

Since the beginning of the pandemic, deaths in nursing homes and long-term care facilities have accounted for over one-third of COVID-19 fatalities. While these facilities can provide consolidated services and around-the-clock medical care, for many, the idea of housing aging loved-ones in such potentially unhealthy quarters may have lost its appeal. This could lead to increased demand for home health aides, house calls, and in-person medical services. All delivered to elderly Americans who have little interest in living with dozens or hundreds of others.

  • A Push Toward Greater Drug Affordability

Some health experts see the pandemic as a chance for the pharmaceutical industry to rehab its reputation as they work at a breakneck pace to provide treatments and vaccines to combat the coronavirus. With millions of Americans newly out of work, high drug prices could pose a huge barrier to care. COVID-19 has raised new questions about how the U.S. prices drugs and many experts say the pandemic may provide leverage for the government to finally exercise negotiating power on drug prices.

  • Ramping Up Healthcare Preparedness

COVID-19 has already prompted calls for a dramatic scaling up of the country’s disaster readiness workforce at the Federal level. Currently, there are several proposals to increase the healthcare workforce in times of emergency, including creating networks of retired doctors, trained practitioners who no longer work in medicine, and even advanced medical students to participate in the medical equivalent of the National Guard.

A Final Word

America’s hospitals and health systems have stepped up in unprecedented ways to meet the challenges of COVID-19. These challenges have created historic financial pressures for America’s hospitals and health systems. While the pandemic will not be here forever, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought into focus the need for long-range healthcare reforms that promote better and more affordable healthcare for all.

Sources:

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2000821

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