It is important to ensure that every country in the world has the resources and the capacity to identify diseases, treat them and send the communication across to prevent its spread
The time before COVID-19
The global health care spending was expected to rise at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 5% in the next five years, according to a report by Deloitte. The same report stated that complex health and technological ecosystems, changing patient demographics and evolving consumer expectations will give rise to value-based care, innovative delivery models, data interoperability, advanced digital technologies, and alternative employment models to prepare for these uncertainties and build a smart health ecosystem.
The Indian Health Sciences sector, too, was swept by the demographic, regulatory and technological transformations. It was on the cusp of significant change, with a record 140 million households expected to enter the middle class in the next decade, as per Bain & Company. The Indian Government continued its thrust on universal healthcare through policies such as ‘Ayushman Bharat’, the flagship scheme to provide free health coverage at the secondary and tertiary level to its lowest 40% poor and vulnerable population.
The success or failure of bringing this massive overhaul in healthcare access and quality hinged on the healthcare professionals at the frontline.
All these changes opened doors to several opportunities in the sector. This indicated an overall increase in healthcare demand and resultantly, healthcare professionals, who, along with theoretical knowledge, need to be equally well-versed with the evolution of technology in health sciences.
These transitions, coupled with more informed and demanding patients, acute and chronic lifestyle illnesses and advances in health information technology, required transforming the approach of the schools of health sciences.
After COVID-19 hit the world hard
The pandemic has brought new challenges and even the most advanced healthcare systems in the most developed countries have crumbled. Coronavirus, as well as the inequities to deal with this highly infectious disease on a large scale, has become the cause of the death of hundreds and thousands of people around the world.
This crisis has revealed real weaknesses in our global health systems: The non-availability of reserves of medical supplies like masks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), lack of correct and timely information and shortage of infrastructure as well as manpower.
China had to build new hospitals with thousands of temporary beds, the United States had to import millions of doses of hydroxychloroquine and the United Kingdom had to urge community members to volunteer for the National Health Service to tackle the problem.
Coming to India, the limited number of hospital beds, ventilators and doctors is a serious concern for the nation.
How can we ensure that we are prepared when the next epidemic strikes?
First, it is important to ensure that every country in the world has the resources and the capacity to identify diseases, treat them and send the communication across to prevent its spread. This can slow down the outbreaks and minimise the impact.
We must always remember how COVID-19 became a deadly pandemic. Given the current situation, it becomes imperative to improve healthcare in every country of the world. Investing in health infrastructure and disease surveillance, strengthening the supply chain, generating information about science-based protocols on what to do when such a situation arises, and better education can prepare us for such outbreaks in the future.
We must pursue science that is bonded through a shared humanity. It is essential to build an inter-connected global health system that supports core health care functions in all countries, including the poor ones, to rapidly identify and treat new infectious diseases as they emerge.
This preparedness must begin today. To prevent the time lag that happens because of the lack of technology or information, we need to equip schools and prepare professionals who are ready to deal with such challenges.
Academic institutions such as UPES are equipping their students with industry-aligned curriculum while keeping up with the rapid progression of technology, medicine and changing lifestyle patterns of the old and new generation. It is time to take lessons from COVID-19.