Covid-19 has caused healthcare to change nearly everything about how it operates and designs patient experiences.
Telemedicine or online consultations, offering specialist doctor care and nursing care at home for patients, besides helping manage home ICUs is the new normal. Also, to avoid crowding at hospitals, the management are now streamlining services and processes.
“Everyone is living in fear. To ensure that patients with prolonged illnesses don’t catch any infection from the hospital, the emphasis is now more on online and home care healthcare facilities and most of hospitals are catering to it,” Farhan Yasin, vice-president, Association of Healthcare Providers (India) (AHPI), Kerala chapter.
Both hospitals and patients were hit, soon after the national lockdown was announced in March. As Covid cases surged across the country, the elective procedures were halted, in-patient admissions were restricted with hospitals only encouraging admissions for critical patients. While patients were scared to go to hospitals, the healthcare workers were not too keen to handle patient rush.
The effect was that hospital finances dropped big time, with many hospitals seeing 50% to 75% drop in patients. Many Covid warriors in the private hospitals had to work with 35% to 50% pay cut. Patients with existing illnesses initially avoided treatment and had to be later admitted to hospital for a prolonged time due to complications.
“Normalcy is yet to be resumed in hospitals as there is still 40 % to 50 % drop in patient flow. The most hit is pediatric department that has seen more than 75 % drop in patients post-Covid. Only emergency pediatric cases now come to the hospital, “Kerala Private Hospital Association (KPHA) president Hussain Koya Thangal.
The hardest-hit are smaller hospitals that face the threat of closure, leaving patients with fewer options for care. This comes even as procedures in hospitals become more expensive, as patients now have to shell out 10% to 20% more as payment towards PPE kits, N 95 masks, testing and even infection control measures undertaken at each hospital.
The future offers little relief, at least until the pandemic subsides and the economy recovers.
“The pandemic has shown that there is an ultimate need for more government funding for health and the role of private enterprises as partners,” said Dr Jayakrishnan A V, chairman of Indian Medical Association’s (IMA) Hospital Board of India.