We have all been confined to our homes for nearly six weeks now. Although we have not been out and about, we could all sense the sociocultural changes that are about to occur as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The way we live and the world as we knew it, is going to change whether we like it or not. The changes will all be driven by our visceral need to protect ourselves from being infected. None other will experience those changes quite as striking as those in the healthcare system.
For starters, the way doctors keep tabs of their chronically ill patients are set to change drastically. Tele-clinics is going to be the new normal in the realm of outpatients services, with doctors leveraging on the latest teleconferencing technology to help them stay in touch with patients. Patients too will come to expect that their doctors communicate with them through such platforms. No longer will patients present themselves ever so willingly to brick-and-mortar clinics, unless there are pressing needs to do so.
Even if patients are required to present themselves for further investigations and/ or continuing prescriptions, be sure that they’ll be asking for alternatives that will keep them away from hospitals or clinics as much as possible. Their priority would be to stay safe and reduce the risk of being infected. That will mean that healthcare providers need to put in place drive-through laboratories and pharmacies to cater to the changing needs of the patients. No longer would it be acceptable to ignore the changing trends.
Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.
H G Wells
Personal care & hygiene
Hypervigilance in personal care and hygiene from both healthcare workers and patients would be observable too. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) clad healthcare workers and patients would be expected to be a common sight over the near future. It is the last barrier from the infection that the workers have as they deal with possibly infected patients on the daily. It is also symptomatic patients’ way to prevent spreading infection. And, the long-awaited frequent hand washing habits would be a welcome change indeed.
Self-quarantine would also be encouraged in unprecedented ways. Not only would symptomatic patients be expected to quarantine themselves, but healthcare workers too would be expected to do the same when unwell. Patients will expect that doctors are in perfect health when treating them. Ill doctors attending to patients are no longer acceptable, even with masks on. Alas, this pandemic will finally shift our focus towards caring for our healthcare workers as much as we care for our patients.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed healthcare workers’ and patients’ behaviours, expectations, needs and priorities. Healthcare systems’ operational processes, methods and norms need to adapt to those changes. This new normal is not going to be a temporary trend that we have to respond to. It is going to be long-term and crucial in enhancing all that we have done to prevent the spread of the infection over the past six weeks. We must not let our guards down, the battle is far from over.