A Filipino nurse attends to an elderly woman in a file photo predating the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: AFP/Jay Directo

The coronavirus pandemic has tested global health systems to the maximum, exposing the unpreparedness of many across the globe. This leads to a simple question: What lessons can health-care systems learn in order to become more robust and responsive to global crises like this, and how will those systems look in a post-Covid-19 world?

Increases in cross-vertical and industrial cooperation are a growing trend. Some companies have proved flexibility during the Covid-19 pandemic by quickly and effectively switching their production focus to medical equipment that is in short supply. Setting aside competition has provided opportunities for businesses to cooperate and innovate, creating a culture of technology sharing that has solved cross-industry issues.

Which general economic trends will form and dominate the world of health care as a result of the pandemic? One general trend that may occupy a considerable place in the world of business and health will be based on changing the business core in new directions.

Examples of this could be seen when, in response to a shortfall, automotive and vacuum-cleaner companies began to produce ventilators. Hotels were converted into hospitalization facilities for patients showing mild symptoms.

Another trend that is starting to receive more attention is cross-vertical and industrial cooperation; for a challenge of a specific industry, sometimes a solution can be found in an industry from a completely different vertical. In addition, the links and cooperation between academia and industry are strengthening.

Another emerging trend is “coopetition” – collaboration among competitors to find a solution. For example, it was announced on April 14 that two big pharmaceutical companies, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi, would work together toward developing a vaccine to fight Covid-19.

The health world will have to redesign and reorganize its structural care focus. In the field of health, the principal trends that can be foreseen are focusing on segments of the populations most at risk, such as the elderly. Meanwhile the impact of chronic diseases and illnesses that aren’t related to Covid-19 may be worsened because of neglect and a lack of surveillance, failure to receive required treatment, and above all, difficulty in mobility.

Remote medical services have gained tremendous momentum during the pandemic for two main reasons that might appear slightly contradictory. First is the need to address the population that is staying at home, those who suffer from chronic illnesses as well as generally healthy people who nonetheless sometimes need medical services such as for mild flu, child illnesses, etc. Second is the need to maintain medical staff while providing care and supervision to Covid-19 patients in intensive-care units.

Certain groups, as well as an expected baby boom in the upcoming months, will require an adequate structural and organizational effort from hospitals to balance the pressure.

It is known that after periods of stress, such as war, there is an increase in the number of births. Good preparation of delivery rooms and pregnancy follow-ups outside the hospital environment may reduce the spread of the disease among this population, as well as strong emphasis on enhanced home care.

It is expected that there will be a decrease in elective surgery and patients will think twice and postpone what isn’t urgent or life-threatening. On the other hand, there is going to be a significant increase in telemedicine services, diagnostics, remote patient monitoring, and treatment via technologies and centers for remote medical services.

Major technologies that seem to be accelerating development and that have already made significant leaps are video call services, robotics, artificial intelligence, and wearable equipment. Remote medical services have proved to be a robust method of assisting health-care professionals serving those who not in critical condition during the Covid-19 outbreak. We may begin to see such equipment become a more permanent fixture.

A rise in the development of algorithms for data analysis and for forecasting and predicting epidemic outbreaks in the future will lead to the wide-scale use of big data. Developing the ability to diagnose early, fast, and accurately, and sorting and mapping of existing medicines and their combinations for the treatment of epidemics, will take priority.

The scale of the Covid-19 outbreak has highlighted the need for forecasting mechanisms to predict where, when, and how future outbreaks may occur. The use of big data in order to map, and then predict, future pandemics will form a key part in future planning.

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Fawad Kaiser

Dr Fawad Kaiser is a professor, Fellowship Diplomate of the American Board of Psychotherapists, and a member of the International Association of Forensic Criminologists. He is currently a consultant forensic psychiatrist in the UK.