By Dr. Prem Jagyasi, a globally acclaimed, award-winning strategic leader and speaker and world renowned medical tourism consultant.
The brutal Covid-19 assault has laid this bare – over decades we have nurtured faulty healthcare systems and practices that failed to make us resilient to diseases. Revolutionary breakthroughs and advancements in modern medicine could not save lives.
Healthcare systems need to be transformed in all aspects- organization, distribution, approach and delivery. It needs to evolve beyond digitalization. Global healthcare burden has been touching new highs even before the pandemic struck. The Covid-19 has been enforced to revisit existing systems and fix the flaws at the root.
Our lifestyle and environment skyrocketing illness
- The world population has fallen prey to its own activities; Covid-19 is just a catalyst. The massive immune-compromised population gave easy access to the virus. The following research findings provide enough support to this:
- External factors and environment including our surroundings, healthcare system, education, culture, and practices contribute to 80-90% of our health outcomes.
- According to the American Psychological Association (APA), loneliness and social isolation are twice as harmful to physical and mental health as equivalent to obesity.
- APA research also shows stress can have a bad impact on immunity.
- The UN warns of a looming global mental health crisis due to Covid-19 causing more deaths from despair.
- Preventable non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like hypertension, diabetes, obesity, kidney problems, lung disorder, and cancer contribute most to the global healthcare burden that kills 41 million people every year equivalent to 7 of 10 global deaths.
- A CDC report suggests 94% of Covid-19 deaths had some co-morbid conditions with diabetes and cardiovascular diseases contributing more to the death count.
- Urbanization and unhealthy lifestyles have fuelled the NCD crisis causing 15 million premature deaths (before the age of 70) every year.
Resetting the conventional healthcare
Preventive measures are discussed more than treatments. Covid-19 perhaps taught us to view healthcare from both preventive and curative perspectives.
- Despite knowing the beneficial side of preventive medicine, global healthcare has lagged in making it adopt as a general practice.
- Only 4% of the global health expenses are on public or community health, risk reduction, and prevention.
- CDC studies say, chronic conditions preventable through proper care services account for 75% of America’s healthcare expenditure, lowering the economic output by $260 billion every year.
- Proper administration of the recommended preventive care to everyone could save 100,000 lives per year.
It is an accepted norm to spend trillions on treating the sick. The environment, lifestyle, and socioeconomic factors contributing to general health are not counted which increases the vulnerability to chronic diseases.
Mending the broken healthcare with a paradigm shift in approach
Without a sound preventive healthcare system in practice, the global population will continue to face the worst causing more severe impact on lives and the economy. It is not that Covid-19 will be the last and worst of the pandemics. The following measures could help in improving the resilience of healthcare systems saving more lives in the future:
Acknowledge social-determinants of health and wellness
Dense and overcrowded places invite more diseases. Government-induced regulations in buildings, dwellings, town planning, sanitization standards and other health protocols will facilitate better health. People irrespective of social standing should have access to basic healthcare and living standards.
Taking an integrative approach with Social prescriptions
It should not be about prescribing pills to reduce specific symptoms but a holistic approach to diagnosis. Social prescriptions need to be suggested more where people can opt for natural healing activities instead of solely depending on prescription medicines.
Encourage studies and research on preventive medicine
Healthcare needs more evidence-based outcomes of preventive medicine. Global bodies need to encourage and support wide-scale studies and research to establish best practices. More importance should be on screening, testing and follow-ups ensuring treatment compliance of patients.
Shifting to remote care
Even before the pandemic hit us, telehealth services were already in use. The Covid crisis accelerated it further right from large-scale pre-visit screening and triage assessment to routine patient monitoring and aftercare. Apart from patient convenience, remote healthcare has the potential to address capacity challenges.
Wider application of Big Data and analytics
Big data and analytics have helped in predicting and analyzing the pandemic and develop effective treatments. Healthcare systems need to align their operations to enable better collection for assessing risk-factors and incidences of various diseases within a population.
Educate and empower people to be health compliant
Taking conscious efforts is the key to health and wellness. Healthcare systems need to include engaging programs to educate and support people to make healthy choices. Healthcare tech could play a vital role in this.
Need for better preparedness
Surely, global healthcare was caught unprepared. Efficient collaboration creating networks with clinical laboratories, hospitals, clinics, and academic organizations is the key to effective crisis management. Healthcare systems need to be more proactive in quick resource mobilization and reduce response times to meet unprecedented service demands.
Creating more trained and skilled professionals
Healthcare has been struggling with an acute workforce shortage long before the Covid pandemic struck. Newer education and training strategies are required not only to create more physicians and specialists but also to build a robust paramedic force for efficient crisis management.
Restructuring primary healthcare and making affordable secondary and tertiary care
Governments need to step up primary healthcare facilities with increased spending. Innovative financial solutions are needed to make secondary and tertiary care affordable. Future contagions and other healthcare emergencies are inevitable in this highly-interconnected world. A catastrophe of this magnitude helps to revisit the existing systems and mend the flaws. Healthcare tech advancements are a boon to the current changes that could be leveraged significantly to improve the healthcare operations and delivery effectively connecting with the masses.
Dr Prem Jagyasi has authored Medical Tourism Guidebook and Wellness Tourism Guidebook. He has also delivered numerous keynote speeches and focused corporate workshops in 45+ countries. More than 150 international organizations have benefited from his expertise through conferences, expert training, consultancy and brand management services.