India’s healthcare system has made tremendous advancements over the last few decades in how healthcare is expected and delivered. Healthcare is provided either by public hospitals or private clinics/hospital chains.
Government-run public hospitals focus more on addressing large-scale social welfare programmes like reducing infant mortality and providing access to costly treatments to the poor, free of cost. There is a well-established healthcare system through health centres in rural areas to well-equipped multi-speciality hospitals and medical colleges in major cities.
Though they serve patients at scale, public health centres alone are not adequate to treat a vastly populated country like ours. This is where private healthcare providers play an active role. Private clinics and hospitals address the demand gap in cities and towns.
The healthcare system has been caught completely off-guard with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. Large hospitals have at least some ways of overcoming these challenges with government and corporate support.
It is the situation of independent healthcare practices that need to transform and evolve themselves to address the challenges from the pandemic and the “new normal” expectations from patients.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the country’s healthcare system has been profound and unforeseen. Private players have held a good account of themselves by providing support through testing, creating isolation wards, sparing their staff and infrastructure.
In fact, many independent practices also provided home care services for some patients, which has been a huge benefit.
As the county slowly starts containing the spread of the pandemic, many new challenges are cropping up. Be it regular hospital visits or undergoing procedures for illness other than COVID, the expectations from the patients and their families have undergone a sea change.
A Deloitte report on the impact of COVID-19 on preferences to healthcare provides important insights on this topic.
As the above graphic shows, there is a lot of apprehension among the patients in visiting hospitals, particularly among the elderly and those with comorbidities.
The survey clearly brings out the concerns of patients in visiting hospitals even after the lockdowns. There is also a lot more hesitation in frequenting hospitals as compared to the pre-COVID situation.
These concerns arise from the fact that non-COVID patients are worried about being on the same premises as those getting treated for COVID.
Even when patients choose to visit hospitals, there are a lot of new expectations that will add to the operational challenges for the hospitals. Be it the staff wearing proper protective gear to frequent sanitisation of the premise, the awareness and expectations have drastically changed.
The pandemic has forced the healthcare system to transform drastically for not just containing the pandemic but also to regain patient confidence. Patient safety has assumed paramount importance, and that will be a basic factor that will drive patients’ choice of hospital.
Following are some of the measures that independent practices must adapt to sustain in this new normal world.
- Maintaining a high degree of cleanliness of the premises through constant sanitisation
- Adequate and consistent screening of everyone entering the hospital
- Educating the staff and ensuring adoption of COVID safety measures
- Separate treating areas for COVID & Non-COVID patients (as possible)
Apart from these measures that need to be done on the hospital premises, there are also other long-term solutions that need to be adopted.
- Grow capabilities to provide telemedicine through the help of relevant technology solutions like Halemind.
- Providing home care services
Telemedicine capabilities add to the ability of private hospitals to reach out to patients even from far off places and offer them services. Remote consultations can be reassuring to patients as they don’t have to risk coming to hospitals. Doctors can verify prescriptions or oversee drug administration. Elderly or bedridden patients can avail of medical help without having to move out of their homes.
Hospitals will also need to provide home collection of blood samples and deliver medicines at patients’ doorstep.
With regards to home care services, most patients would prefer availing post-operative care from their homes instead of staying for longer periods at the hospital. Healthcare providers must plan for such scenarios and have the necessary number of staff to support patients at the hospital and at their homes.
The pandemic has forever changed the patient behaviour and expectations on how healthcare is delivered. There is a growing preference for remote healthcare and high standards of safety protocols being followed.
Hospitals are not alone in this transformation journey. There are a lot of technology providers like Halemind who have proven solutions in this field that can help doctors and hospital management to see through this journey.
The onus, though, is equally on the individual hospitals to understand the expectations of patients and leverage technology solutions to ensure safe, seamless, and trusted healthcare delivery.
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