Covid 19 hit us hard. No mincing words, no platitudes. We thought we were ready, but it was clear as cases rose and our healthcare system weakened under the strain , that we were woefully unprepared. However, history has shown that our most brilliant innovations have risen out of the most dire circumstances, and we have to believe that something positive will rise from the havoc this virus has left in its wake.
We have begun our first phase of opening up, relaxing lockdown protocols and trying to get back to "normal". So how do navigate through a post - Covid era ? What can we do now, that will make us better prepared for the future ?
The toughest lesson the bureaucracy and citizens have learnt , is that our healthcare industry,, made out of its public and private counterparts , are working in silos. When the time came for the often touted "PPP" Public-private partnership, to work its magic ,we found that we lacked the basic tools to communicate and collaborate with each other as both systems effectively operate on very different planes. If we can find a way to take critical stock of both our existing systems and find a way to fix gaps and loopholes , it could lead to a more seamless transition in the future, which would benefit both the healthcare provider and the patient.
Decentralisation of healthcare facilities : While there is a congregation of healthcare providers in Tier I and Tier II cities , even basic care is not available in rural areas. We need to focus on projects that deliver programs to smaller towns and villages, so that the city hospitals are not overwhelmed by cases that could be dealt with, locally. The issue has largely been trained manpower as doctors or nurses. In areas where a little goes a long way, building infrastructure, incentivising human resources and training local talent ,can be funded publicly or through corporate social responsibility initiatives.
Initiate active surveillance for future outbreaks , with adequate budget allotment to research and epidemiological activities.
Become Self Reliant : we need to start ramping up production of our own healthcare supplies and infra structure so that we have a competitive domestic market , with quality standards that are affordable, without having to depend on imports.
Invest in training and medical education : We need to take advantage of the policy window that has opened right now and make lasting meaningful changes in the way we deliver medical education, exposing them to quality standards during their course curriculum and taking advantage of technology driven materials.
Demand Forecasting: we need to have a realistic idea of the products or raw materials we may need and establish supply and demand chains , building up infrastructure and human resources accordingly.
Improve the relationship between the healthcare industry and the media, as well as the patients and customers. We need to start re-building the trust that we seem to have lost with our patient base, and change the narrative about the healthcare industry propagated by media, sensationalised through social media.
Take patient education and engagement into our hands. With the vast amount of unverified and sometimes harmful medical information out on the internet, we are dealing with a #infodemic ! We need to start disseminating information to our patients ourselves, starting with open dialogue and active interactions , meeting patients where they can now be found most often - on social media.
It looks like we still have quite a long way to go before we are free and clear of the COVID 19 pandemic. Let us hope that although we learnt our lessons the hard way, we come out the other side, ready to make impactful reforms, even if it is just one small step at a time.
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