If there was one industry at the center of the discussion in 2020, it was likely the healthcare industry. From frontline workers going to battle for their COVID-19 patients to researchers working hard to develop a vaccine, nearly all aspects of the industry faced an unexpected year.
But despite the hardships patients and workers endured, the healthcare system embraced change. The pandemic hastened new ideas and thrust some tried and true concepts back into the spotlight.
Now, as we all begin to emerge from the pandemic and look toward the second half of 2021, many lessons the pandemic taught will remain. Here are some of the trends healthcare workers are seeing and how they’re transforming the industry:
Telehealth has long been possible, but the pandemic necessitated its use for many routine health services to free up hospital resources and keep otherwise healthy patients safe. Now that patients and healthcare providers alike have seen the benefits, it’s likely here to stay. Doctors and patients can discuss recurring conditions, skin conditions, urgent care issues like colds, mental health concerns and more all without the commute and in-person interaction.
Smart technology has made its way into cars, homes and now healthcare facilities. HIT Consultant spoke with 30 healthcare executives in December 2020, and several of them mentioned the rise of the smart hospital. This could include smart cameras, speakers, AI and wearable technology that would allow organizations to scale and automate the work of administrative and support staff members as well as to help doctors with data and diagnosis.
Personal protective equipment, or PPE, was a huge discussion in the early stages of COVID. As we emerge, PPE is being thought about in new ways. We could see new devices that allow doctors and staff to use hands-free technology to communicate with patients and each other so they don’t have to don and remove new PPE when leaving a room for just a moment.
COVID-19 affected Black, Latino and indigenous people disproportionately, and the pandemic in general shined a bright light on the ways in which our healthcare system is not fair in terms of race, ethnicity and geography. Post-pandemic, this will be an issue all those involved in healthcare will have to work together to overhaul to improve outcomes for all patients.
During the pandemic, those in the healthcare industry had no choice but to drop any barriers and work together for the greater good. This will likely continue with everything from collaborative approaches in healthcare networks and better infrastructure for public health data to bipartisan political efforts and a rejoining of the WHO on the world stage.
Will this change the role of a medical assistant? In some ways, yes. Medical assistants may find themselves using new technology to collect patient data, setting up virtual appointments, learning new PPE practices or even using mobile platforms to help patients track their health throughout the year. But in the end, any changes are meant to support a better healthcare system as a whole and better outcomes for patients—which is always the goal of healthcare workers.