Medical Realities – The impacts of COVID19 and lessons healthcare needs to learn

Medical Realities Global Virtual Grand Rounds Shafi Ahmed Al-Sahawat TimesProfessor Shafi Ahmed of Medical Realities during a Global Virtual Grand Rounds Webinar


Medical Realities – The impacts of COVID19 and lessons healthcare needs to learn


The impacts of COVID19 and the lessons to be learned by healthcare

Mohsin Abedi from Medical Realities talks us through the impacts of the COVID19 pandemic and which lessons global healthcare really needs to learn from this.

IMPACT

We have all seen or perhaps been affected by the global financial crash and surge in unemployment and collapsed businesses sweeping the globe in the wake of the COVID19 pandemic. Industries have long been subject to rapid change, courtesy of various alterations in the macroenvironment. Healthcare is no different; in fact, healthcare is one sector which appears to alter its course more often than others, both in the context of public and private provision.

One recent such macroenvironmental change has been the emergence of COVID19, which has brought the world to a standstill and relentlessly attacked healthcare on a system-wide level.

“War Without Weapons”

Healthcare professionals are at the forefront of it all, frontline workers in this ‘war-without-weapons’ who provide the foundations for the global response to this pandemic. Workers have had to adapt their skillsets, routines and lifestyles in order to come together to keep the virus at bay, and preserve the health and safety of the general public as best they can.

This does not come without additional issues- aside from the well-documented lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), workers often find it difficult to source and access relevant information in a convenient and appropriate way. The consequences of such procedural barriers must be mitigated in order for the healthcare industry to optimise the efficiency of its response to this virus.

LESSONS

Dr Mayur Lakhani, Chair of the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management, labels the current pandemic a “burning platform” for change, highlighting the opportunity for healthcare as a whole to embrace the disruption the pandemic has caused, and break free from the accepted norms within the healthcare community.

Dr Lakhani also highlights the enablement of healthcare workers to a greater degree of “clinical freedom to practice”, a result of the various temporary legislative changes releasing healthcare and healthcare workers from bureaucratic demands and processes, for the time-being.

Another theme identified by Dr Lakhani during this unprecedented time has been the multiskilling of workers, endemic of a sector-wide pivot from a specialty-focus to a more generalised approach.

The recent shift towards technology, dubbed “the 4th Industrial Revolution” by Dr Eric Topol, is a shift that healthcare must embrace. One example of this shift is the replacement of face-to-face contact by teleconsultations at the interface, symbolising a move- albeit forced- in the direction of further digitisation of healthcare. Dr Lakhani argues that this pandemic has highlighted the true potential for technology in health, as well as where improvements must be made (such as in ensuring equitable access for all to digital health services).

Dr Kim Yu,  US-based Family Physician Leader, and Dr Richard Pratt, UK-based digital therapeutics champion, provide a nuanced comparison between the US and UK healthcare systems, and how COVID19 has impacted them respectively. They agree with Dr Lakhani: that technology needs to be embraced and embedded into current models of care to produce a new, technology-oriented hybrid model, which can in turn ensure safe and remote working continues beyond the pandemic.

Dr Yu highlights a range of issues specific to the US, whereprimary care physicians have seen almost half the total number of physician office visits in the US, which has included a range of different conditions.

Dr Yu also identifies inequitable testing as a worry, with community-based practitioners and patients given fewer tests compared to their hospital counterparts. Social issues such as insurance for low income individuals, and a lack of uniformity between areas in terms of incidence, are also discussed by Dr Yu.

 Dr Yu argues that the false positive rate in low-incidence geographical areas is considerably higher, presenting those conducting and interpreting tests with a big problem in the context of data analysis and the provision of an evidencebasis for future practice.

While both accept the need for remote consultations, Dr Pratt argues that remote consultations are not always straight-forward, giving the example of mental health consultations as a particularly difficult consultation-type for family practitioners to have to conduct in a remote setting.

Both speakers illustrate the changes pattern of demand since the start of the pandemic, for example; demand for primary care services in the NHS have dropped by almost 30%, while the US has seen an increase in the number of appointment no-shows and cancellations. This, they argue, is a potentially dangerous trend, as the expected second wave of COVID19 may coincide with healthcare systems being overwhelmed by deferred care.

Pioneering, US-based surgeon Dr Rafael Grossman has appeared on Global Virtual Grand Rounds webinars as a specialist speaker. He offers insights into how technology can revolutionise healthcare, a process predating the pandemic. He also covers the importance of social distancing with the use of an animation, utilising the screenshare which makes these webinars as interactive as possible. Dr Grossman is also the latest to highlight a change in the pattern of demand seen in healthcare.

Like his colleagues, Dr Grossman makes clear his position that the healthcare industry must not miss this opportunity to “be better”, by embracing the changes forced upon it and adapting to optimise care provision.

COVID19 has challenged healthcare in a never-before seen way, forcing the hand of healthcare providers to incorporate technological advances into their various provision channels.

The experts who have appeared on their webinars have all hypothesised that this current pandemic has great potential to be used as the basis for a system reshuffle in healthcare. Medical Realities are just one example of how healthcare can embrace technology in the face of challenges posed by COVID19, and adapt to new models of care and education provision moving forward. All things considered, perhaps a further question must be asked; with the unanimous closure of educational facilities worldwide, how great a role will virtual learning play in the future provision of healthcare education?

MOVING FORWARD

In order to address the so-far unmet and pressing needs relating to healthcare-worker education, Medical Realities, a London-based meditech start up dedicated to the use of innovative technological developments to boost medical and surgical training, have, like many companies, adapted to joint the globally fight against COVID19. Through uniting experts and novices across all sub-specialties in healthcare, and by formulating a FREE, centralised and up-to-date repository, they have already begun to make immediate impacts. Their pioneering endeavours in the health education sector have enabled them to promote resources to a range of healthcare professionals worldwide. Journalist, patient, student, researcher or front line worker, the ‘COVID repository’ is the most comprehensive free tool available to provide live statistics, training, education and resources. (Use the COVID repository here).

Virtual Events and Teaching: Global Virtual Grand Rounds, are designed to provide contemporaneous insights and teaching from frontline workers from across the globe.

With speakers from primary care, surgical and respiratory backgrounds contributing their views in the context of this pandemic, these webinars aim to highlight not only how COVID-19 has changed care provision across a range of healthcare systems, but also how the medical community can learn from these changes to adapt care models moving forward. In addition to the sessions which have already been attracting large attendances, Global Virtual Grand Rounds have scheduled further sessions covering diabetes, dermatology, critical care and pharmacy, all of which have been greatly affected by the COVID19 pandemic. 

DEVELOPING NATIONS

It is important to not only view virtual education and training from a first world perspective but to also ensure that the technologies are adaptable and scalable for less developed healthcare and education infrastructure. Striking that balance between cutting edge interactive training and education and accessibility to the masses is a difficult challenge. One it would appear that Medical Realities and Global Virtual Grand Rounds have succeeded in.

Article By Mohsin Abedi, edited by Amy Radclif


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Amy Radclif
Journalist for Al-Sahawat Times
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