The pandemic has placed more pressure on the already overstretched healthcare system worldwide. Since its onset, the demand for hospital workers has shot up like we’ve never seen before.
Apart from the dire lack of medical personnel, the virus has also seen many of the workers getting sick or succumbing to the infection. Add to this the lack of facilities and persisting external threats, such as people who continue to refuse vaccinations or violate the minimum health standards. Unlike last year, though, it seems the medical sector has kept up with the demands of the pandemic but remains vulnerable to the biggest challenges facing the industry today.
1. How To Work More Efficiently Despite The Lack Of Resources
As the hospitals become congested with COVID-19 patients, they start running out of personal protective equipment and oxygen tanks, among other medical supplies, to keep the frontliners going. Amid these insufficiencies, there’s the need to continue providing healthcare services to the community. Fortunately, there’s a way of achieving this, and that is through telehealth and virtual consultations.
Online services are critical in these times, especially in decongesting hospitals and minimizing the use of supplies and facilities. In fact, some medical centers allow COVID-19 patients who are either asymptomatic or with mild symptoms to avail of virtual consultations instead of getting admitted to hospitals. As a result, medical spaces are left to those suffering from serious COVID-19 symptoms and other critical health cases.
However, there’s another challenge to this. Although there are hospitals that have an in-house team for teleconsulting, some don’t have the capacity to run this service, owing to the demands of on-site patient care activities. Nevertheless, medical facilities are doing their best with what they have. For instance, I was reading this and realized many hospitals could benefit from outsourced compounding to deliver continuous care amid the pandemic.
2. Severe Lack Of Healthcare Workers
Pre-pandemic, there’s already a dire lack of health workers worldwide. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, the global shortage of health workers is projected to reach 18 million by 2030.
There are multiple reasons for such deficiencies, but healthcare workers experience a stressful working environment that’s compounded by the pandemic. Thousands of medical frontliners had been infected with the virus, with some even losing the battle against it. COVID-19 infections aside, few of the main reasons for the lack of workers include the aging population and workforce, the steady increase of chronic illnesses, and the need for more health campaigns.
3. How To Strengthen Cybersecurity Protocols
The fundamentals of medical practice include confidentiality, so much so that it’s included in the Hippocratic Oath of newly admitted physicians. With the advent of technological advances, though, the healthcare sector has become more reliant on electronic data. This allows them and the patient to have access to records anytime, anywhere.
However, this has also made it highly attractive for cyber hackers to access sensitive medical information in the hopes of getting money out of them. Data breaches are attractive in the healthcare industry because hackers can use them to commit identity theft and other forms of cyber fraud.
To regulate the storage and sharing as well as prevent the unauthorized use of personal data, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) was enacted into law. However, it hasn’t stopped hackers from trying. In fact, since these past years, cyberattacks on healthcare facilities show a steady increase.
Apart from the vast information from patients’ database online, the increasing use of telehealth facilities offers greater risks as well. Hence, this is another major challenge that the sector has to hurdle in these difficult times.
4. How To Manage Increasing Patient Volume
The rising number of patients, due mainly to COVID-19 infections but also to other illnesses, has highlighted the shortcomings in the global healthcare system. Most notably, these include deficiencies in the number of medical workers and the lack of resources.
And with the detection of the Delta variant—the ‘fittest and fastest’ coronavirus strain as of yet—hospitals and resilient workers are again scrambling to take care of infected persons. This problem is spread throughout the world, even in countries that have been quite successful in containing the virus last year.
The medical sector is worst hit by the pandemic. However, the medical industry remains resilient and continues to improve despite heavy challenges. Because of the resurgence of a more infectious strain, hospitals are getting congested once again, slowly depleting the already scarce resources of the overwhelmed healthcare sector.
However, the pandemic is not the only root cause of the problem. Deficiencies in the sector have been going on in the past years, only highlighted by the fact that there’s a medical emergency happening. And there seems to be a lack of effective solutions on the horizon as of yet.