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The key areas in which COVID-19 has impacted healthcare

The COVID-19 pandemic can feel like a distant memory, despite the worst days of the virus being a relatively recent event. Today, we are still frequently reminded of the impact of the pandemic on our lives. One of the most significant impacts is in the way in which we deliver healthcare.

Technology and the introduction of telehealth services

For most people, the introduction of more technology has been the most visible change, with the chance to receive telehealth services a huge part of that. In hindsight, it seems obvious that technology had reached a point where it could be used to access the health services we need more conveniently and at any time, but it was the coronavirus that urged us to finally put this technology to good use.

The process of getting a virtual health check can be carried out using just about any kind of laptop, smartphone, or tablet, and it can be done in the form of a live video chat or secure messaging. Healthcare providers can also remotely monitor their patients using smart devices, to check their vital signs, blood pressure, wounds, and more. There’s no need for the patient to be an expert on the technology, as it’s very easy to use. 

Telehealth is also known as telemedicine, and it gained mainstream attention when the pandemic made it impossible for people to visit their medical centers for checks. While this caused many of us to fall behind with treatments or health checks, the emergence of virtual appointments using the latest technology proved to eventually be a terrific solution. 

The option of accessing telehealth services has been a blessing for many people. For example, those with chronic diseases, the elderly, and those who have to deal with mobility issues. It’s also been particularly beneficial for those who live in remote areas or have trouble getting to their nearest medical center regularly.

It’s also highly valued by those who are vulnerable to infectious diseases. Rather than running the risk of going to their local hospital or medical center, anyone in a vulnerable condition might choose to receive their care at home.

There are however some challenges going forward. Some conditions can’t be diagnosed without an in-person appointment, and it’s hoped that technology will improve this over time. Furthermore, not all patients have access to the devices needed to attend a telehealth appointment. 

Overcoming these issues will ensure that everyone can benefit from the advances in telehealth that we’ve witnessed in recent years. This method of accessing medical care is here to stay, so it’s now a question of making sure that everyone can access it when needed. 

Telehealth services have also benefited medical staff 

Patients aren’t the only ones to have benefited from changes in technology. Healthcare professionals now have the opportunity to train in new areas that boost their careers and provide them with a more flexible way of working. Telemedicine is a way of working that interests a lot of existing medical professionals and recruits, as it allows them to help patients more effectively and conveniently.

In rural areas, these workers no longer need to spend much of their valuable time driving to make house visits. By calling patients from their base, it’s possible to fit in more appointments each day and keep track of their patient’s well-being more easily. This makes it easier for healthcare professionals to do their jobs effectively and efficiently.

Telehealth usage has increased by almost 40% following the pandemic. As a result, much more medical staff have had to rush to bring their skills up to date, while it’s also produced an intriguing way for newcomers to enter the sector. However, some healthcare workers may be afraid of making the change and of learning a new way of working.

Thankfully, there’s nothing for them to fear. Can nurses do telehealth without being technical experts? Yes – telehealth is simply a modern method of communication that makes the accessibility aspect of the role easier. Nurses’ roles remain the same in most other aspects of their work. New nurses still need to follow the typical route of earning their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, passing the NCLEX-RN exam, and gaining a state license. 

It’s then a matter of gaining experience in the field and learning how to operate the telehealth platforms that are currently available to us. The technical aspect is less important than the nursing knowledge and experience, as you can expect to learn how to use the platform without too much fuss if that’s how you plan to work. 

You can then apply for telehealth jobs that fit your criteria. It’s a fast-growing area, so expect to see new opportunities appear regularly. This means that you might feel that you can afford to be patient and wait for the perfect role to appear, once you’re qualified and ready to start working in this way. 

For anyone who got used to working at home during the pandemic or has done some sort of online learning recently, a telemedicine role isn’t going to be a big change. The ability to make patients feel at ease and make good decisions remain as important as they’ve ever been in the medical world, and this is simply a more convenient way of doing it. 

Look online and you’ll see that the jobs market is split between telehealth jobs and traditional roles where you speak to patients on a face-to-face basis. This is fine, as you can switch between these different ways of working at any point in your career. The use of the latest technology simply makes it easier to work remotely with patients, if that’s what you prefer.

The need for more healthcare professionals

While there was a shortage of medical professionals before the pandemic, the problem has now become even more acute. There were already fears over the aging nurse population and the lack of new staff coming through, but things are now at a crucial stage where 15% of all American hospitals have staff shortages in critical-care areas.

This follows the biggest decline in working US nurses in recorded history, as the number dropped by more than 100,000 between 2020 and 2021. This was perhaps partly due to people leaving their jobs after being burned out during the pandemic. As a result, employers have been working hard to attract more newcomers and retain existing staff by offering better salaries and working conditions.

This has led to a surge of interest in healthcare careers, with many people deciding that this is the sort of future that they envisage for themselves. However, it’s going to take time for recruits to become fully trained and then gain the experience necessary for them to work effectively in the industry. 

Of course, this raises the question of how well-prepared we are in the event of another pandemic. It could be argued that there’s now a greater degree of awareness among the public and healthcare professionals about what to do, should a pandemic hit now, but it’s also clear that increasing the number of medical staff across the country is urgently needed.

Giving them more financial rewards is one of the possible ways to encourage more people to enter the medical world, but healthcare professionals have always been driven by more than just money. Better working conditions and the chance to effectively help others are just as important as the financial aspect of their jobs. 

It’s been widely reported that many students have expressed an interest in training for nursing roles, among other healthcare jobs. Medical school applications rose by close to 20% in recent years, and everyone who seriously considers training for a healthcare role has their reasons for doing so, making it difficult to draw general conclusions about what has caused this increased interest.

Despite an upsurge in interest in these roles, the fact is that the numbers still aren’t enough to replace those nurses who are leaving or are close to retiring while also making up the existing shortfall, so expect to hear a lot more in the next few years about the drive to bring new people into healthcare roles. 

Many healthcare roles are now advertised online, so it’s easy to keep up to date with what is happening and spot any new opportunities that might be of interest to you. It’s an interesting time to enter a career in healthcare.

Healthcare staff are more valued

There’s another reason why we’ve seen recent renewed interest in healthcare as a career; the incredibly hard work and bravery shown by medical professionals during COVID-19 have changed how many people perceive this work.

A Gallup poll in 2022 showed that nursing is the most trusted profession in the US, with 79% of those who responded believing that nurses have high or very high ethical standards and honesty. This number is slightly lower than it was when COVID-19 was its worst, but it’s worth pointing out that nursing has now led the way in this poll of different jobs for more than two decades.

Second place in the poll also goes to healthcare workers, with medical doctors ranked as trustworthy by 62% of the Americans surveyed. This puts them ahead of pharmacists, high school teachers, and police officers on the list, and shows that Americans value their medical professionals highly. 

We all remember how the nation’s healthcare staff stepped up during the most difficult phase of the pandemic, with nurses and other staff regularly posting images of their tired faces that were marked from using their face masks for long shifts. These images have stuck in the minds of so many people, who now more fully understand some of the challenges that staff working in these roles face. 

While respect and trust for nurses and doctors has always been present, this recent greater appreciation of healthcare work has helped us to view healthcare professionals in an even more positive light. Looking ahead, the influx of new workers helps perceptions too, as more people are likely to have friends and family working in a health role or be considering it themselves.

The public are now more informed

One of the most notable things about the early stages of the pandemic was how eager the public was to find out more about what was going on in the world. Rather than burying their heads in the sand, many people wanted to delve into the technical details and find out more about the virus and how it was transmitted.

This is something that will carry on into the future, leading to the public becoming more informed about new medical threats and treatments. The easy access to online information that many of us now enjoy makes this something easier to do than ever before.

While this doesn’t make it impossible for any new virus to wreak havoc as the coronavirus did, it does mean that perhaps we’re better prepared in general for something like this to happen. Of course, the fact that scientific data and theories are now readily available online means that we no longer need to wait as long to find out about new issues, but it also poses its own problems regarding the trustworthiness of the information we are accessing. 

Looking back, the world was incredibly under-prepared to deal with a pandemic of this scale. As the virus swept across the globe, the attempts to stop it all proved to be inadequate, and this is why it eventually overwhelmed the healthcare services in virtually every country.

This has caused us to look at how we can better prepare for anything in the future that causes a similar threat. The consensus is that we aren’t ready to deal with another crisis of this type, but we won’t know for sure unless it happens, and the more that people understand potential threats the better. 

Employers taking more interest in the health of their workers

While there have always been exceptions, the truth is that many employers previously never paid as much attention to the health of their workers as they perhaps should have. The massive impact of COVID-19 meant that companies have become more aware of the need to look after their employees’ health. This can be seen in the way that companies are looking to change their processes, to help prevent illness among their workers and also to look after them if they do get sick at some point. 

A good example of how this can work is with companies adding more health benefits to the overall rewards package for their employees. This could mean better partnerships with healthcare providers that give the workers access to things like telemedicine consultations when needed. Many employees have also realized how important it is for their staff to carry out preventive care on health conditions and not miss any of their appointments. 

Taking more precautions to prevent the spread of infectious diseases

The way that COVID-19 swept across the planet was truly terrifying, and it has changed the way we think about infectious diseases from now on. By the end of 2022, few Americans were still wearing face masks, but experts argue that there’s still a place for masks to be used in everyday life. As well as protecting against new COVID-19 variants, masks can act as a barrier to stop other respiratory diseases, such as the flu, from spreading.

The public is now aware of the importance of preventative measures in avoiding the spread of infectious diseases, such as the correct way to wash our hands and other good sanitary habits. This might affect the way that healthcare services operate, by reducing the risk of these diseases becoming more widespread and ultimately overwhelming our medical centers.

The start of a new era for healthcare services

Overall, it feels very much as though this could be the start of a new era, one where public health is centered as a primary concern in society. Ordinary people everywhere have been forced to take their health, and the health of their families and wider communities, into their own hands and this has encouraged a sense of individual responsibility for the collective. Medical professionals have likewise experienced an increased awareness of their importance in society and a redoubled enthusiasm to protect public health, support health services and champion the individuals who work tirelessly in the medical profession.