Covid & Lasting Changes: Healthcare

Covid-19 has revolutionized the delivery of global healthcare. The mRNA vaccines that are being used to combat the pandemic now were seen as a radical, new idea and were dismissed in the 1980s. Healthcare systems have also begun using technology to extend the hospital system directly into the home. The innovations in medical science during the pandemic have definitely left their mark on the field of medicine. Whereas vaccinations take up to 10 years to be created under normal circumstances, the covid-19 vaccine was developed in an astounding 11 months.

As a part of an emergency response to the pandemic, a license was issued in the US to allow drones delivering medicare to fly long-range, and the new rule made as of December states that drones can fly over people and at night. Drone technology has existed for a while now, but due to privacy and safety concerns, delivery systems by drones did not rapidly cover the globe. Telemedicine is another aspect of healthcare that rapidly developed and was put to commercial use across the world in order to provide medicare to a large number of patients while social distancing. 


Frugal innovations and time constraints

The term frugal is often associated with poor quality and insufficiency. However, frugal innovation is the process of cost-effective simple inventions. During the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a rise in frugal innovations globally to support the healthcare system in difficult times through human resourcefulness. Some of the most notable frugal innovations during covid have been medical inventions in the making altered to detect, and kill the virus. UV lights, for instance, have been used as disinfectants for decades. A Columbia University scientist discovered that UV-C light is extremely effective in killing SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Different spectrums of the UV-A and UV-B are effective in killing bacteria and germs, but since a virus is technically not a living thing, these wavelengths are rendered useless against it. 


Much of these frugal inventions took place at the beginning of the pandemic. In an emergency global demand for sanitizers, a company repurposed their cologne to make hand sanitizers, and breathalyzer tests began to be used to detect the virus all over the world as it gives immediate results. As a result of resource constraints and time pressure, the developing world has specifically had many interesting and highly effective frugal innovations. Simple acetate used for overhead projectors made functional visors for clinicians working with those infected with the virus.

The coronavirus has made the MEDCs also realize the insufficiencies of their medicare system, and healthcare leaders across the world have learned from the frugal innovations and rapid response to the COVID-19. 


Furthermore, entire hospitals and medical infrastructure around the world have been built at an incredibly fast pace. Most notably, early on into the pandemic, an entire hospital was built in China within just 10 days. Globally, countries converted conference venues, gyms, etc into Intensive Care Units and first responder hospitals to accommodate the increasing number of patients daily. 


Telemedicine and social distancing

Now, patients are recommended to not go to the hospital right away when infected, but rather quarantine themselves and consume over-the-counter medication. They are to not call the ambulance unless there is severe pain or complications. This is not only due to the hospital systems working in full capacity but also that the patient may pick up more infections from other patients while at the hospital. One of the most notable companies in this area has been the California-based logistics company Zipline. Their mission is to provide every human on Earth with instant access to vital medical supplies. The company has had 171,157 commercial deliveries and a total of 1,006,785 shipments total. 


Telemedicine during the pandemic has been heavily concentrated on extending the hospital system to the home of the patients and meeting the social distancing requirements. Telehealth visits have increased by 50 percent by 2020 compared to 2019 and hospitals around the world are setting up telemedicine video calls in the patient rooms so that symptoms can be reported to the doctors immediately. The amount of resources spent on digitalizing the healthcare sector all across the world has been immense. Thus, telemedicine is to keep developing and reaching more people even past the coronavirus pandemic. 


Aside from covid, depression and anxiety among the general public have increased threefold in America during the pandemic years according to the National Center for Health Statistics. As a result, online therapy options have become more available. Google trends suggest that more people are searching for therapy than ever before.

By the second quarter of 2021, revenue for Teladoc, multinational telemedicine, and virtual healthcare company, had grown by 85 percent, and its total visits increased 203 percent. 


Resilience and prioritization

Coming out of the pandemic, global healthcare would be more prepared for a pandemic of this scale in the future. Some experts say that Africa was not hit as hard by the coronavirus due to the precautions they put in place as they were more experienced in dealing with the ebola virus and malaria. New Zealand has been an example nation in its fight against covid. They have gone to zero cases a day. From May 2020 up until now, they have had very few cases every single day. The country has imposed level 4 restrictions and as a result of cooperation between the Government, the people, and the healthcare professionals, their New cases remain zero at the beginning of August 2021. This is because the citizens followed the quarantine and social distancing initiatives imposed by the government, and this way, the virus was tracked and eradicated at each new detection. 


With global healthcare experts collaborating in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic, the only potential downside is that with most capital and resources being allocated to covid-19, it causes a deviation from funding in other medical research.

Some vaccine researchers have conducted joint ventures and there has been an emphasis on medical collaboration all over the world. 


Currently, 28.5 percent of the world has received at least one dose of covid vaccination and 14.7 percent is fully vaccinated. Daily, there are 39.7 doses of vaccines administered each day, and 4.18 billion doses have been administered so far. Additionally, only 1.1 percent of people in low-income countries have taken at least one dose of vaccination.

In the meanwhile, wealthy nations taking booster shots have created outrage as each additional booster shot could have gone to low-income countries. 


In order to reach herd immunity, and to avoid the emergence of dangerous new variants, global vaccination rates need to improve drastically. The World Health Organization states that if the 11 rich countries give shots to everyone over 50, instead of the booster shots, then the global supply of doses would increase by 440 million. If the MEDCs were to do the same, then doses in global supply would be double the amount. The G7 countries have agreed to donate a billion doses of vaccination around the world. Some public perceptions in MEDCs suggest that the LEDCs should vaccinate their people themselves. 


The total global vaccination demand is at around 11 billion doses. The IMF stated that 9 trillion USD is to be gained from reaching herd immunity. This far outweighs the losses the world faces as over four more trillion USD could be lost on just the impact on tourism from the pandemic according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Therefore the greatest lasting change the world is to have coming out of the pandemic is global herd immunity against COVID-19. As to when the coronavirus will end, the World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has one simple answer.


At his speech to the International Olympic Committee meeting in Japan, he said “ I have come this time with a message for the world’s people to hear,”. He continued, 


"I am often asked when the pandemic will end. My answer is equally simple: the pandemic will end when the world chooses to end it. We have the tools to prevent transmission, and save lives."