The Solution to Beating COVID-19? — Changes in the Healthcare Industry
Say what you will about 2020, but it certainly has been an insightful year.
This pandemic has forced people in all walks of life to adapt to a very foreign way of life. One that has come with some benefits, but also many challenges.
To me there is nothing better than seeing humanity rise to the occasion. I’m a firm believer that hardship can bring out the best of our abilities. And I think we have seen that on full display lately.
Leading from the front though, is healthcare.
As an industry, healthcare has borne the brunt of this pandemic. Doctors, nurses, GPs, specialists — they’ve all been fighting COVID-19 head on. Not always in a conventional manner either…
Six months ago, the idea of a virtual hospital was largely a fantasy. Today, we have one operating from the heart of Sydney that has 600 registered patients.
It is now a leading provider of telehealth services. Just one of the many institutions utilising modern communication technology to provide remote care.
As Dr Teresa Anderson, CEO of the Sydney Local Health District, comments:
‘When you have something like a pandemic that impacts across the whole system and impacts on the way in which we can deliver our business as usual, it actually makes us think about things differently.’
The threat of this virus forced them to be better. And we will all be better for it.
Telehealth for instance, is one solution that I expect will be here to stay. Because even after this pandemic is over, the benefits of remote consultation are obvious.
It’s just one of the many positives that will come from this terrible disaster. Which is why it’s such a shame that it took us this long…
See, when it comes to health and technology, they’ve always had a rocky relationship.
On the one hand you’ve got an incredible array of medical devices out there.
If you’ve ever visited a hospital or specialist clinic, you’ll know what I mean. They are filled to the brim with all kinds of advanced machines. I’m talking CT scanners, ventilators, all sorts of monitoring systems, and more.
Make no mistake, healthcare makes use of some of the most sophisticated technology ever conceived.
But, on the flipside, it is also a sector that is infamous for its resistance to change. As can be seen when it comes to more holistic technologies: such as telehealth.
There is a distinct aversion to technology that isn’t designed for healthcare but would benefit it.
Let me give you one of my favourite examples.
In April (of this year), fax machines were officially banned from use within the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). A mandate that was put in place due to fact that two years ago close to 9,000 fax machines were in operation across the NHS…
Even today some of these fax machines are apparently still in use. Despite the ban.
I’d laugh if it wasn’t so sad.
Email and digital documentation rendered ‘faxing’ obsolete decades ago. At least it did for any sensible organisation.
I doubt (and hope) it hasn’t cost any lives. But I’m damn well sure it has cost them plenty of time and money. Dealing with all that paperwork alone would be a nightmare.
A modern, digital system would be far better for everyone involved. Even if it did come with some teething problems in the short term.
My broader point though, isn’t particularly about fax machines or telehealth. It’s about the fact that healthcare can’t afford to be stubborn. Especially when it comes to technology.
That’s not an opinion or plea, that’s a straight-up fact.
COVID-19 has forced healthcare to embrace technology like never before. It has been the wake-up call that the healthcare industry needed.
Which is why it’s no longer a matter of if we’ll see change, but when.
And for investors, it will be an opportunity like no other.
By the numbers
Now, when it comes to this change and opportunity, I’m talking big structural changes.
As my colleague, Lachlann Tierney, explained in yesterday’s Money Morning: synthetic biology is one such change.
It is one of the more exciting and promising solutions to a threat like COVID-19. A field that may one day make the idea of a pandemic obsolete.
Beyond that though, when it comes to healthcare in general, the possibilities are almost endless.
As technology continues to advance, healthcare will be one of the biggest winners. A development that will lead to a boom in the medtech field.
We can already see the early signs in areas such as data, analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI). Technology that will upend the way we think about and handle our health.
As Harry Glorikian, author of MoneyBall Medicine, notes:
‘Data-driven healthcare is transforming medicine from a reactive practice to a proactive one.’
Under this sort of system, the focus isn’t to diagnose people. It’s to prevent them from ever getting sick in the first place.
More importantly, it will also allow for people to take a more active role in their own healthcare. As we’re already seeing in the US.
As of March, new rules allow US citizens to take control of their health data. Giving them the option to share this information with whoever they please.
In doing so, everyone involved can get a clearer, timelier picture of an individual’s health. Which, in and of itself can help in extreme situations. Kevin Haynes, Chief Privacy Officer for the Nemours Foundation for instance, provides this example:
‘All providers could be notified if their patient tested positive for a virus. Or in a medical emergency, receive a patient’s latest stats to provide lifesaving background information. It would also give organizations advance notice to prepare and triage patients during a significant health crisis.’
Again, that’s just the start though.
The possibilities and potential are endless. That’s why we’re seeing plenty of interest in medtech as a whole. A field that is rapidly growing in both scope and relevance.
Tune in tomorrow to hear from Ryan Dinse about how you can be a part of it…
Editor, Money Morning
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