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Impact of Coronavirus on Healthcare Industry

Impact of Coronavirus on Healthcare Industry

Healthcare | Jun, 2020

The coronavirus outbreak that started from Wuhan, China, has now infected 6,291,635 people and resulted in 374,357 deaths as of June 1, 2020. As the global pandemic coronavirus continues to spread, no industry could escape from its impact, which is eveident on the global economy as well. The healthcare industry got moderately affected while helping mitigate the impact of COVID-19, globally. The very high-risk assessment by WHO (World Health Organisation) at a global level highlights that the spread and effect of coronavirus on healthcare as a sector can have a cascading effect on economies of different nations suffering from this deadly virus. Globally, different countries are taking their measures to fight COVID-19 outbreak but this kind of pandemic outbreak showcased that there is very little preparedness to confront such issues on a broader scale. Strengthening the healthcare system will play a key role in minimizing further impact. Additionally, government leaders of different nations should invest in any preparedness gaps and coordinate internationally  to tackle financing and emergency response needs.

Impact of the Coronavirus

Since the outbreak of the virus, the Chinese government has struggled to control, diagnose, and treat the novel coronavirus. Beyond the direct effects of the virus, the ongoing pandemic has taken a toll on normal healthcare activities in China, with daily patients avoiding highly contagious hospital facilities. While the resources are also diverted to fight the COVID-19, regular medical services have crawled to a standstill, and the healthcare industry is unable to cope up with it.

 

United States emerged as the new epicenter of COVID-19 with over 1,837,578 confirmed cases as of June 1, 2020. The government in the country is already facing financial distress; the sudden coronavirus outbreak is going to have a direct and lasting impact on the economy and health system of the country. The supply chain disruptions are leading to drug and medical supply shortages in the long term, which is going to give rise to operational and financial challenges in the healthcare industry. Moreover, the demand for face masks has gone through the roof, whereas disrupted supplies of pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, and biotechnological devices are threatening the growth prospects of the healthcare industry.

European country, Italy, which is also suffering from the virus, faced a significant setback when thousands of positive cases hit hospitals in quick successions. In some Italian hospitals, most critical surgeries have been suspended in order to focus resources on coronavirus treatment. Italian doctors and nurses are working non-stop to curb the ongoing effect of COVID-19. In some majorly infected Italian cities, the ambulances are not readily available, and emergency hotlines have been diverted to recorded messages in some cases.

 

India, located in the Asia-Pacific region, also witnessed three lockdowns of 15 days to put a break on the increasing number of COVID-19 positive cases. India’s healthcare sector is going to be impacted on a significant extent as India spent barely 1.28% of its GDP on health services. According to the National Health Profile (NHP), report 2019, India recorded 4,19,96,260 cases and 3,740 deaths from acute respiratory infection in 2018. As COVID-19 causes respiratory problems and infects the lungs, these numbers are alarming for the Indian government. In India, tests for COVID-19 are free and borne by the government but the patients themselves bear hospitalization expenses for COVID-19 positive patients. Citing the current situation in India, the inquiries on health insurance policies from customers increased nearly 30-40% over the past few days, according to Policy Bazaar. A standard health insurance policy will cover all post-hospitalization covers while, the pre-hospitalization costs, such as check-ups, are being incurred by the government. In fact, IRDAI has also issued an advisory for covering COVID-19 in life insurance, and several companies have launched fixed benefit plans related to that.

 

Hydroxychloroquine drug, which is not clinically proven to be a remedy against COVID-19, witnessed a surge in demand after the US President said that the drug could play a vital role in curing COVID-19 patients. The coronavirus assaults people’s lungs, in a few cases compromising their capacity to breathe. Ventilators, which play an essential role in supporting the lungs through a tube put within the windpipe, to keep the infected patients alive, are also facing an extreme surge in demand on a global platform. Ventilator manufacturers are under tremendous pressure to manufacture new devices in less time. The pandemic outbreak has even disturbed the transport and supply of vital parts, such as hoses, valves, engines and hardware, a few of which come from China. A few of the major providers of the ventilators have said that they have an intense deficiency of ventilators stock, and they are continuously receiving requests for the ventilators from around the world amidst the coronavirus outbreak. Citing the current scenario, around 880,000 more ventilators will be required to meet the demand of ventilators globally to control the fatal cases.  

 

Major Impact on Healthcare:

The COVID-19 has majorly impacted the following areas of healthcare industry:

  • Shortage in supply of medical drugs and devices: Nearly 20 drug producers are entirely dependent on imports from China for their active ingredients or to manufacture their finished drug products. With China being the epicenter of the outbreak, the country has become majorly non-operational in many sectors. This shutdown resulted in a shortage of supply of medical drugs in many parts of the world. China is also the world’s largest producer of rare earth minerals, which are used in making battery-powered medical devices. The economic shutdown of China hindered the production of several medical devices. 

 

  • Ensuring patient safety: As the world crippled in front of coronavirus, resulting in travel limitations, it’s become more difficult for the healthcare officials to conduct their regular inspections of drug and medical equipment from China which give rise to safety concerns of regular patients. This could further exacerbate product shortages in the healthcare sector and patient safety risks associated with less effective products.

 

  • Medical Supply chain disruptions: Countries relying on outside drug and medical devices are facing product shortages as the healthcare industry continues to face supply chain risks because of its growing practice of offshoring certain operations overseas, notably near or at the epicenter of the outbreak. Even the local supplies of generic medicines are facing disruptions, as many countries are facing a standstill notice. 

Ways to Minimize the Impact:

Uncertainty is still hovering on whether and how the virus effect can be minimized and how many waves of the outbreak of the deadly virus might occur in the near future. The World Health Organisation (WHO) is continuously warning that the coronavirus can spread further, and the countries should strengthen their healthcare sectors, as patient care is the priority. The government authorities in different nations are ensuring that they are fully prepared to fight COVID-19, in order to provide effective and essential healthcare services to positive tested patients.

The authorities can consider the following ways to keep a check or minimize the impact of COVID-19: 

 

  • Conduct a proactive continuity risk assessment: Different healthcare organizations should identify potential internal operational and financial market risks in order to determine the direct and indirect impacts of such major outbreaks. The healthcare sector should also generate an action plan to tackle such a deadly virus outbreak in the near future. The activity plans ought to consolidate the direction from government specialists, and rules must be well communicated as to how healthcare workers should test for coronavirus. The vulnerability of spreading the virus via partners and co-workers within the care group or third-party merchants should be included into activity plans to halt the flare-up of the deadly virus.

 

  • Identify a response team in coordination with state and local governing bodies: The response team should make efforts to communicate with suspected positive case-patients to contain the virus. During the event of such crisis, communication with patients, representatives of the healthcare sector, and accomplices on the healthcare care groups are critical. When it comes to communicating with patients, healthcare organizations should give proper advisory measures to the patients and their encompassing communities on what coronavirus is, the destructive impacts of coronavirus, and key defensive measures individuals can utilize to remain safe.

 

  • Focus on diversifying the locations of healthcare drugs & equipment suppliers and vendors: The healthcare industry should work closely with drug and medical supply providers to build emergency models which can be implemented during outbreak of pandemics such as coronavirus. These models will help determine ways to cut down the additional disruption in the supply chain of medical equipment. In the case of third-party vendors being impacted, medical organizations would need to have a backup plan in place, if their vendors are unable to deliver on medical services, equipment and drugs on time.

 

  • Reviewing healthcare organization’s insurance policy: Healthcare organizations should be aware of their protection policies in order to get a clear picture of how to decide and capture misplaced income and salary as a result of the coronavirus episode, which is unusual and unanticipated in nature. Reviewing coverage around infectious diseases such as COVID-19, supply chain disruptions and workforce loss can be proactively managed in order to minimize the long-term associated risks.

 

  • Providing updated medical billing codes for coronavirus detection: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that administers United States major healthcare programs, announced new billing codes for providers and labs to test patients for coronavirus. These codes will help healthcare organizations to keep a track on public health response towards the outbreak and help the organizations to cutdown extra patient healthcare costs. Moreover, healthcare organizations should update their billing processes and make sure that patients are correctly billed by the billing staff.

 

  • Providing training to healthcare professionals on telehealth services: As the world is witnessing a prolonged term of quarantine, the inability of certain patients to travel to facilities for in-person medical visits in the healthcare organizations need to be dealt with seriously. The telehealth capabilities of healthcare professionals will ensure that medical remedies are provided for regular patients and medical advisory can be given to COVID-19 suspected patients. Leveraging such services could act as a way to minimize the number of positive patients, as it facilitates distance amongst people.

Undoubtedly, each and every industry got severely affected from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, yet the healthcare industry has so far been spared from the worst hit compared to other industries. Many pharmaceuticals and biotechnology companies are working day and night to find a vaccine for the treatment of COVID-19 and the healthcare industry will definitely be benefitted from the development of potential vaccines for COVID-19.

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