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There are three key facets that must be considered in order to meet the demands of an endemic - the ongoing acceptance of a baseline of COVID-19 infection rates that will be maintained for the foreseeable future.
As hospitalization rates for COVID-19 decline and America continues its vaccine roll out, the idea of the pandemic coming to an official end is beginning to sound more plausible. While the country will experience a notable change in daily routines, the pandemic will ultimately fade and instead, we will witness a shift to an endemic. An endemic is the ongoing acceptance of a baseline of COVID-19 infection rates that will be maintained for the foreseeable future.
While this level of tolerance will allow Americans to move on with their lives and businesses to re-open, it will be accompanied by a lifetime of managing unknown side effects and overseeing the correlated treatments and therapies on a recurring basis.
The potential for a lifetime of steady COVID-19 infections will impact every aspect of healthcare and we must continue to adjust to ensure patients have access to affordable healthcare and a resilient supply chain.
Here are three key facets that must be considered in order to meet the demands of an endemic:
Supply Chains and Preventing Shortages
The pandemic showed the world our healthcare supply chain is very fragile and inelastic as hospitals experienced shortages and private companies stockpiling supplies.
In a February 2021 survey, more than three in four nurses reported that supply shortages are common. These shortages can impact patient safety and increase inefficiencies and risk in day-to-day care. As we shift to an endemic status, organizations must work to stabilize their supply chains to make them resilient as well as prevent passing on rising prices on medical supplies and pharmaceuticals to patients.
Scaling To Reach the Masses
The long-term effects of COVID-19 will continue to come to light as the country reaches an endemic status. These chronic side effects, combined with six in 10 Americans living with chronic disease, means our healthcare system will need to scale to reach these vulnerable populations over the course of their lives. Increasingly, this will require engaging patients where it is most convenient for them, at home. The nation will continue to see the healthcare industry conduct in-home medical visits and provide prescription deliveries right to patients’ front doors.
Adopting and Leveraging Technology
The pandemic was a seismic catalyst for digital transformation with the adoption and acceptance of an array of new digital technologies. From distance learning, work from home, “curbside service” and, specifically in healthcare with contact tracing apps to new wearables, patients and providers welcomed the accelerated pace of technology adoption to make their lives easier.
This includes the widespread acceptance of telemedicine. With 68% of physicians stating they believe virtual visits will have a lasting impact on how doctors see patients, more organizations are working to incorporate telemedicine as a part of their ongoing business model. The continued use of telemedicine will enable recovering COVID-19 patients to receive ongoing support and treatment for side effects in a convenient and effective manner.
While many are eager to declare the pandemic is coming to an end, the healthcare industry must accept the nation is transitioning to an endemic. The ongoing demands that come with an endemic will result in a more resilient and elastic supply chain, increase the ability to scale medical care, and continue to push the boundaries of technology. Industry leaders like myself are continuing to innovate and launch new ideas to address our nation’s changing landscape and demands. By working alongside manufacturers, pharmacies, provider networks, wellness e-commerce companies, and virtual health platforms, I hope to fundamentally change the way patients experience healthcare.
Jeremy “Jerry” V. Gross is chief executive officer and co-founder at Vytal, a healthcare technology company.