Healthcare systems are often seen as ponderous behemoths, set on a particular course and slow to adapt and change direction. The sense of urgency engendered by the COVID pandemic has shown that, when they have to, they can adapt, adopt new technology, and innovate quickly to save lives.
Take the quick re-purposing of hotels. In Argentina, domiciliary homecare business Palcare has taken over three hotels to offer accommodation to COVID-symptomatic patients. In India, Apollo and Max healthcare are among those doing similar, with hotels being used to provide isolation rooms including for those requiring medical observation and supervision.
Over in the UK, a series of temporary hospitals (‘Nightingales’) were fast-tracked and built at breakneck speed, with the assistance of the military. Around 20,000 soldiers stood up for Operation Rescript, and the London Nightingale was build in just 10 days. Without appropriate political backing and financial support, such a development would have been unthinkable six months ago.
Elsewhere there have been strides forward made with the acceptance and adoption of telemedicine which has made up ground quickly. A swift glance at telemedicine specialist Teladoc’s share price – up almost 135% in the last six months – tells you all you need to know about how COVID is affecting the sector. As the true scale of the pandemic started to become clear in February and March, a slew of digital companies rushed to provide solutions and the public and (some formerly sceptical) doctors embraced them.
When the political will, and cash, is made available, solutions can be found to seemingly insurmountable problems. What we really want to know is the answer to two questions:
- Has this pandemic refocused a disinterested executive and made it more inclined to fund downtrodden NHS systems (and perhaps pay staff a little better)?
- Will the invaluable help for-profits have given be remembered and their position in the healthcare chain better accepted in more sceptical geographies?
- Is the embracing of new tele technologies which facilitate social distancing here to stay – or will interest wane when necessity is less of a driver?
Will this be a real driver for change?
We suspect the answer to the first question and second question is no, in the long term. And the answer to the third, we suspect, is not as much as one might hope. We will be happy to be proved wrong.We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to David Farbrother or call 0207 183 3779.