Crisis situations open the door to change.
The COVID-19 pandemic has provoked a collapse in the health systems of many countries. COVID-19 showed the shortcomings of medical systems, but at the same time opened up new perspectives. The most difficult of all forms of innovation is systemic change. And health care is perhaps the greatest systemic challenge of all. But the COVID-19 emergency may prove to be a pivotal moment for the health care industry for several reasons, the Financial Times writes.
First, the pandemic has shown that health care workers can respond with remarkable speed, flexibility and courage when there is an urgent need. New medical facilities have opened in many countries. Telemedicine” has grown in popularity. Scientists have developed vaccines with incredible speed. It was the crisis that accelerated the metabolism of change.
Second, efforts by some governments to digitize health care are likely to gain even more momentum. Large software companies, such as Epic, have resisted making them available for sharing in the past, masking their own commercial interests in privacy issues. But the U.S., EU, India and China are now demanding that such companies standardize their systems and secure data access for the potential benefit of patients, doctors and researchers.
Third, companies are investing heavily in new ways to use their information and obtain other sources of data. Big tech companies – including Amazon, Google, Apple and Alibaba – are expanding their reach to pharmacies, diagnostics and insurance. Venture capital money is also pouring into digital startups.
Fourth, there is a growing realization that health care providers, policymakers, and technology companies have to work together to improve the system. If you leave a lot of power in the hands of health care administrators, then little is likely to change. If too much power is given to technology companies, they are likely to demand inappropriate solutions.
Digitalization holds great promise, but the use of digital data in health care raises obvious concerns. After all, there is the possibility that large technology companies will begin to control even more aspects of human life. Sensitive health care data should not be compromised.
Policymakers must establish a regulatory framework and enforce the rules.
Alex Turkeltaub of investment firm JSL Health Capital draws a parallel with the history of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry to illustrate a possible health care development. First, the Saudis encouraged private American oil companies to develop the industry. Then they discovered that oil was an irreplaceable asset and that technological expertise was a commodity. So they nationalized the industry and expanded bidding for contracts.
Turkeltaub suggests that health systems realize the enormous value of their data. But that data only has value if it is stored securely.
Crises often break old habits and create new ones. It is hoped that the pandemic will be a real catalyst for positive change for health systems, the publication concludes.