For years now, the warning signs have been there. We’ve heard over and over again that a pandemic could hit America. And hit us hard.
Some people have taken those warnings seriously. Others haven’t. Some Americans believed pandemics only happen in third world countries. Not anymore.
As we’ve vividly seen over the last several months, America is susceptible to a pandemic.
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc with our economy. And with our healthcare system.
We Just Weren’t Ready
As of this writing, there have been 579,005 confirmed cases in the U.S. And 22,252 deaths. That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The actual number of cases is probably much higher. That’s because many people with the virus are asymptomatic. Others with mild symptoms were never tested.
We could dedicate all day pointing fingers. We could assign blame for why America wasn’t as prepared as necessary. But let’s leave that to the politicians.
Instead, today let’s take a look at how this pandemic has changed our healthcare system. And how it will change healthcare in the future.
Testing Lagging Behind
First and foremost, the coronavirus has exposed glaring weaknesses in our healthcare system.
We have fewer doctors and fewer hospital beds per capita than most developed countries. This has become very noticeable recently.
Also, we weren’t ready to develop enough testing kits. That lack of early testing led to infected people infecting others at a high rate. Especially before social distancing became the norm.
What if more testing kits had been made sooner? It still would have taken more time to administer those tests. Due to our lack of medical personnel. These things need to change.
Healthcare Providers Need Protection
There is also a serious lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Some nurses and doctors had to wear the same masks while treating multiple patients. That’s when you know there’s a problem.
That’s what occurred in New York City. Ventilators were also in short supply.
Not enough masks and not enough surgical gowns left healthcare providers vulnerable. And when they get infected, it negatively affects everyone.
And what about the typical American citizen? When COVID-19 was moving in quickly, we were told only N95 masks were effective against this virus.
So, there was a run on those respirators. Then Amazon and others decided to limit the number of N95 masks given to medical personnel.
Americans were then told they didn’t need to wear masks at all. As the crisis grew, we were recently told to wear masks in public. And that homemade masks would be sufficient.
This has been a confusing series of communications from healthcare groups and politicians. It has not instilled confidence in people who just wanted to stay healthy. Future communication to the public needs to be accurate and consistent.
There’s something else that will need to change in the future if we’re to better control the spread of a disease. We need to isolate patients faster.
Hospitals and other medical facilities are already doing much better doing this now. Especially compared to a month or two ago.
That’s when this virus first started taking a foothold in America. Too many coronavirus patients were not isolated from other patients.
And that caused the spread of the illness within those hospitals. And other medical facilities. It also led to some healthcare providers becoming infected.
The Age-Old Problem – Funds
Another issue that will have to be resolved if America is to become better able to handle a future pandemic is expenses.
There is considerable debate about the healthcare budget in this country. The purpose here is not to recommend one system over another.
But there’s no denying that higher healthcare expenses keep some Americans from seeking medical attention.
The average American exhausts more out-of-pocket on healthcare than people in many other countries. Including England, Germany, France and Japan. As well as Canada, the Netherlands, Australia and others.
Lawmakers Chiming In
Another way healthcare will change due to this pandemic involves legitimate changes.
Vice President Mike Pence announced that COVID-19 testing and treatment will be considered an “essential health benefit.”
Representative Ruben Gallego of Arizona said he will soon introduce a bill. It would force Medicaid to cover testing and treatment of COVID-19. Regardless How Americans get their insurance.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he will require insurers and Medicaid in his state to cover testing and treatment, for no expenseAssuming an emergency has been declared.
Authorities need to figure out how to increase the number of medical personnel. As well as hospital beds, ventilators and PPE. But it won’t happen overnight.
Something that could occur quickly is an increase in the number of virtual doctor visits.
Some healthcare plans already include this advantage. And an increasing number of people have been using them.
These virtual visits help calm people who would otherwise go to the doctor unnecessarily. And spend more of their budget doing so. That would make room for those who really need immediate hands-on care.
The coronavirus has already changed healthcare in America. It will continue to do so. Let’s hope any improvements are enough to better handle this pandemic and the next medical emergency.