Wellington – The covid pandemic has created an unprecedented disruption to global economies and healthcare, with extensive lockdowns and travel bans to flatten the curve.
However, mounting economic pressures and unmet population needs have forced governments to reopen societies.
The pandemic has resulted in unprecedented changes in healthcare, both directly as a result of the infectious disease outbreak and, indirectly, because of public health measures to mitigate against transmission.
This disruption has caused rapid dynamic fluctuations in demand, capacity, and even contextual aspects of healthcare.
Therefore, the traditional face-to-face patient–physician care model has had to be re-examined in New Zealand and globally, with digital technology and new models of care being rapidly deployed to meet the various challenges of the pandemic.
Covid has created an urgent need for digital transformation in many industries, enabling remote work and the continued provision of services while providing adequate safety to people and minimising avoidable human contact.
Healthcare has been disrupted on two fronts: the direct effect of covid on healthcare, and the indirect effects that arise from mitigating efforts.
The indirect effects are particularly important now, as many societies reopen at different stages with different amounts of success.
Importantly, the traditional face-to-face patient-physician care model has to be re-examined to meet new requirements from public health measures to mitigate against covid transmission, the Lancet Journal says.
Digital technology and new models of care have been rapidly deployed to meet new challenges.
There are several common factors that all healthcare systems have had to address during the pandemic.
Healthcare systems have had to reorganise care for existing patients to reduce face to face clinic appointments, triage cases requiring urgent consultation, postpone non-urgent visits including elective surgeries and set up new infection control measures.
These changes have affected the availability of healthcare resources, such as existing physical infrastructure and essential supplies, such as personal protective equipment, which have been stretched to meet these demands.
“Healthcare systems have addressed the surge in high risk covid patients including those with respiratory diseases, while minimising their contact with other patients requiring continued care for non-covid illnesses,” The Lancet says.
These changes required the reconfiguring of workflows and physical infrastructure to reduce the risk of health-care-associated transmission.
Healthcare organisations have reorganised staff resources to meet large and sudden fluctuations in clinical need at different frontline and community settings, in response to local outbreaks.
Public health policy responses, such as the quarantine of those returning from travel, or alternate week split team measures to physically separate healthcare workers, further added to disruptions.
All these factors contributed to rapid dynamic shifts in demand, capacity, and even contextual aspects of health care.
These challenges present the need and opportunity for digital innovation, with the overall aims of improving the efficiency of healthcare workers, decentralising care with minimal physical touchpoints and reducing the time spent in healthcare premises, the journal says.