Until a successful vaccine is found against the new Coronavirus, certain aspects of our lives, including healthcare, will never be the same. Let us find out how telemedicine will be the "new normal" in healthcare.
With lockdowns being lifted, experts are busy finding a way to stop the rapid spread of the new Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. Scientists and pharma companies are racing against time to find a vaccine, and various treatment options are also being tried out. In spite of these efforts, both a cure or vaccination might take quite some time to be made available. Looking at the situation now, it seems this Coronavirus will be with us for a while, and we might have to learn to live with it. This means we have to get used to living a completely different lifestyle in the near future. Humans are not used to such drastic changes, as most of the major changes that have occurred through these years happen at a glacial pace. But, the changes that COVID-19 has brought with it is lightning fast.
Everybody is wondering when things will go back to normal. But have you imagined what this new normal will look like? Nobody has a clear answer to this question. One thing is clear that our era will be divided into before COVID-19 and the new world that will emerge after this pandemic. In this article, let us explore what the new normal will be like.
Our behavior, culture, and economy have definitely changed. Some of the other changes that have occurred so far are:
Overburdened Healthcare System - With the rising number of deaths due to COVID-19, our hospitals and healthcare system have reached their breaking point. Coronavirus is spreading like wildfire, and hospitals are crumbling under the caseload.
Increased Mental Health Disorders - Isolation, quarantine, and the fear of getting infected have triggered various mental health disorders. Depression, anxiety, anger, frustration, and panic attacks are becoming very common.
Social Isolation - Let’s face it, we have started to get anxious when we see crowded places. We avoid shaking hands and meeting other people as much as possible. All these are essential to prevent COVID-19, but it has also led to social isolation.
Early or Unexpected Deaths - People are and might lose their lives, loved ones, or acquaintances at an exponential rate. COVID-19 has already resulted in the death of thousands of people around the globe. If the virus is not contained soon enough, we might see a jump in the death rate.
Improved Personal Safety and Hygiene - Because of the fear of getting infected with the new Coronavirus, most people are paying more attention to personal hygiene. Social distancing and good hand hygiene help in preventing numerous other infectious diseases.
Economic Damage - With most of the offices and shops being shut down or working partially, and job loss, COVID-19 has damaged the economy badly. Even after this pandemic, the economy will not grow as fast as we would like.
Worldwide Shortages of Commodities - As companies are working with limited staff and work timings getting reduced, we are facing a global shortage of essential products and other commodities. Panic buying and hoarding of essential goods can also result in such shortages.
Less or No Travel - Almost all countries have banned international travel, and even interstate travel is being monitored.
Increase in Remote Work - With most companies asking their employees to work from home, people are likely to spend more time in their “home office” or find jobs that require them to work remotely.
Less Globalization - Due to strict border rules, international travel, cross-border trade, and flow of investments have been affected.
Improved Environment - A dramatic change in the environment has been noted as CO2 emission is exponentially reduced. This is due to closed factories, and no flight, car, or train.
The following are some ways this pandemic will and has affected the healthcare system:
As the risk of the spread of this new Coronavirus is high in a hospital setting, most patients have canceled or postponed non-essential appointments to a later date. Most practices are only catering to emergency cases, and are postponing non-essential appointments.
Children and adults might not get vaccinated in time, putting them at a higher risk of infectious diseases.
A few unfortunate patients are not consulting doctors because of the cost that comes with a visit and medicines during this crisis.
Isolation and quarantine have resulted in an increase in mental health disorders and other illnesses. A study found an increased risk of developing dementia, coronary heart disease, death due to cancer, and stroke.
Some chronically ill patients have reportedly canceled important appointments due to the fear of COVID-19.
Telemedicine is not a new concept, and it has been around for some time now. Because consulting a doctor online used to be thought of as a far fetched idea, most people were reluctant to use it. With most of the local clinics closed and hospitals dealing with COVID-19 patients, telemedicine has emerged as a new hope for people during this pandemic. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the number of patients using telemedicine platforms for primary care has drastically increased.
Telemedicine is rapidly substituting in-office doctor visits. Patients prefer consulting a doctor over a video or audio call through their smartphones or desktops. We do not mean to say that this will completely overtake the need to consult a doctor in-person or to visit the emergency room because it cannot. Many illnesses and conditions need the doctor to physically examine the patient before suggesting a treatment plan. But, telemedicine will help in addressing conditions early, which might reduce the number of patients needing emergency care.
Psychiatric patients who need counseling regularly or geriatric patients who might find it difficult to travel or might need others to take them for regular doctor’s appointments might greatly benefit from consulting doctors virtually. They can talk and ask doubts to the doctor from the comfort of their table, rather than traveling all the way every time. This cuts down the waiting time and crowded waiting area in the doctor’s office, thus reducing the exposure to other sick and contagious patients.
The patient has to touch a lot of doors, handles, and surfaces during the journey from the home to the clinic, which again increases the risk of infectious diseases like COVID-19. Telemedicine helps provide quality care, improves health outcomes, lowers the cost of healthcare, and allows patients to live a healthier life.
Despite the efforts, a vaccine seems distant and social distancing, isolation, wearing protective gear, and changing our usual way of life seems to be the only logical solutions. Not only healthcare, but most offices, schools, and colleges are looking into new and innovative ways to introduce the contactless or virtual system in place during this global crisis, which very well may become the new normal!
Last reviewed at:
04 Jun 2020 - 4 min read
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