As COVID-19 sweeps the world, every job industry has had to adapt to the latest CDC and White House health recommendations. On an individual level, the novel coronavirus has completely altered human behavior, too. For the last few weeks, most of us have begun washing our hands with soap and water obsessively, rubbing our hands with hand sanitizer frequently, and donning protective face masks to stay safe during this time of crisis.
At the front lines of this crisis is the healthcare industry. Reports of overworked nurses, overcapacity hospital units, and personal protective equipment shortages seem to flash across news screens every 15 minutes or so. And so an interesting question arises: How is COVID-19 changing the healthcare industry?
In this article, we’ll discuss how COVID-19 has likely forever changed the healthcare industry in the United States.
Healthcare Before COVID-19
Back in 2014, the CEO of Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Toby Cosgrove, said in an interview that the United States had too many hospital beds. Dr. Cosgrove argued that nationwide hospital occupancy was only at 66%, meaning that hospitals around the country were overstaffed and had too many empty beds. Last year, a McKinsey senior partner, Dr. Penny Dash, told a reporter that the United States needs fewer hospitals. Dr. Dash went on to explain that there was a different burden of disease in 2019 than there was in 2000, 1950, or 1919.
Healthcare During and After COVID-19
It would be interesting to see what Dr. Dash and Dr. Cosgrove would say in an interview now. It’s reasonable to suspect that their opinions on hospital capacity would change, what with state governors pleading on national television for more hospital beds, more medical supplies, and more nurses in their understaffed and overwhelmed metropolitan hospitals.
While this hospital occupancy debate will likely resume when the coronavirus is controlled, one new innovative healthcare treatment option is likely here to stay — telemedicine.
Telemedicine is the idea of using tablet technology, e-mail, and text message alerts to connect sick patients with their doctors. As many doctors have suspended in-person visits over the last month, doctors are now offering video consultation via Skype or Zoom that allows for the same high-quality care done remotely.
In many cases, telemedicine services are much cheaper than in-person consultation, suggesting that COVID-19 caused the rise of Skype-based doctor visits in the United States.