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Healthcare in a Post-Pandemic World

Healthcare in the early 1900s was a curious mix of home remedies, pseudo-science, and experimentation. Most surgeries were still being done at home, and influenza, childbirth, and everyday injuries often ended in casualty. For the first time, local governments had just started to clean their water supplies and properly dispose of human and industrial waste. 

History of Healthcare

Changes in health care throughout the 20th century focused on discoveries that built the fundamentals, confirmed the theories and sparked the scientific innovation that we have since advanced sevenfold. In 1920, the average life expectancy was 53.22 years old, which has increased by 25.59 years (it was 78.81 in 2020). Below are some examples of life-changing discoveries of the last century in the United States:1


  • 1921: Medical scientists Sir Frederick Banting, a Canadian, and Charles Herbert Best, an American-Canadian, discovered insulin.  
 
  • 1946: American pharmacologists Alfred G. Gilman and Louis S. Goodman discovered the first effective cancer chemotherapy drug, nitrogen mustard, after noticing that soldiers had abnormally low white blood cells following exposure to nitrogen mustard.
 
  • 1948: American chemists Julius Axelrod and Bernard Brodie invented acetaminophen (Tylenol).
 
  • 1953: Dr. John Heysham Gibbon, an American surgeon, invented the heart-lung machine. He also performed the first-ever open-heart surgery.
 
  • 1954: Joseph Murray carried out the first human kidney transplant.
 
  • 1958: Rune Elmqvist, a doctor and engineer, developed the first implantable pacemaker. 
 
  • 1959: Min Chueh Chang, a Chinese-American reproductive biologist, carried out the in vitro fertilization (IVF) that later led to the first “test-tube baby.” Chang also contributed to developing the combined oral contraceptive pill, which the FDA approved in 1960.
 
  • 1960: A group of Americans developed the technique of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). They tested it successfully on a dog first, and the technique saved a child’s life shortly afterward.
 
  • 1963: Thomas Starzl, an American physician, performed the first human liver transplant, and James Hardy, an American surgeon, carried out the first human lung transplant.
 
  • 1978: Doctors recorded the last fatal case of smallpox.
 
  • 1981: Bruce Reitz, an American cardiothoracic surgeon, successfully performed the first human heart-lung combined transplant procedure.
 
  • 1986: Eli Lilly launched fluoxetine (Prozac), a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class antidepressant that doctors prescribe for several mental health problems.
 
  • 2020: A vaccine for the worldwide SARS-CoV-2 pandemic was created in record time. 

Improvements to Healthcare in the Last Decade

We have seen monumental strides in healthcare within the last ten years, especially through technology, communication, and medical research. These changes in health care were brought about by the innovation of dedicated professionals that have and will constantly be updating the quality of service we receive. 

Technology

It’s crazy to think that some technology from 2010 is already obsolete only ten years later. Wearable devices, GPS tracking, and 3D printing are some of the latest healthcare trends we see coming to fruition. Instead of staying in the hospital for tests overnight to track your vitals, doctors can now upload the data from wearable technology that monitors the same things. And, advancements in technology doesn’t always mean new devices are being created. The first x-ray was conducted in 1895, but today they are less harmful, and the results are instant. Even small pieces of medical equipment such as spinal needles have been improved upon to be more effective and safer. 

Communication

Communication has improved across the board and is a new healthcare trend that has really come about in the last decade. As health care has moved toward a focus on patient experience – communication has been a driving force. Hospitals communicate with other hospitals a lot better and share medical records. Records are now being stored remotely, which means doctors can send over your history to a new specialist who can easily consult on treatment. Technology has allowed communication to spur between healthcare providers and insurance companies, and even healthcare providers and patients. If you have a question for your doctor, you can now send it through a secure portal instead of waiting for a callback. There are so many changes in healthcare that we have come to take for granted, which have only really been recently implemented. 

Medical Research

Every decade we will have medical research to thank for advances in cures, treatments, and preventive health care. Changes in health care are constantly being made because right now, as you read this article, there are people in labs pouring over medical research. Some diseases, like HIV, were seen as completely untreatable a few decades ago. There are more prescription drugs on the market to help treat problems and ease pain. Medical research has identified ways for healthcare providers to detect early signs of cancer, and even treat  and prolong the life of someone with late-stage cancer. Medical research in the last decade, and every decade, will be at the forefront of medical advancements. 

Post-Pandemic Changes in Health Care

The COVID19 pandemic has changed the way we live – especially when it comes to healthcare. Learn about the new healthcare trends that are here to stay.

The Acceleration of Telehealth

In 2019, only about 11% of patients in the United States used telehealth. That number skyrocketed to 49% in 2020.Some experts have said that the pandemic “accelerated telehealth by a decade,” making it the preferred experience for healthcare providers and patients.2 

 

Many healthcare providers have offered some version of telehealth for years, but they were usually an afterthought. There has also been a common misconception that healthcare via telehealth would lead to lower quality of care received because it lacked the face-to-face experience. And of course, there is always hesitation to any change, but especially changes in health care. A centuries-long practice of seeing your healthcare provider in-person was changed in a matter of months. 

 

The pandemic forced many to use telehealth – who otherwise wouldn’t have – and disproved many assumptions about poor care. Patients quickly realized the convenience of a virtual visit with their healthcare provider. Instead of taking time off work, driving to their appointment, and then sitting in a waiting room, patients can log on when it is time for their virtual appointment from the comfort of their home or office. In fact, nine out of 10 patients who participated in a virtual visit said it was more convenient than other ways of getting care.3 Patients are afforded a big convenience, they can avoid the risk of venturing out and being exposed to germs, and providers can see more patients in one day.4 

 

Some appointments still need to be conducted in person, especially when diagnostic equipment is required. Otherwise, patients have learned that a virtual appointment is easier and more convenient than a face-to-face visit. As the kinks continue to be worked out and technology only improves – more specialists and healthcare providers will begin to adopt virtual visits as a common practice.  Learn about Woligo’s telehealth and health discount plans here.

Streamlined Services Are the New Healthcare Industry Trend

For the healthcare appointments that still needed to be conducted in person, healthcare providers were forced to adapt to new regulations and safety guidelines because of COVID19. These changes forced healthcare providers that were still working in the dark ages to streamline services and find innovative solutions to adapt to the status quo, allowing them to operate more efficiently and create a better patient experience. 

 

  • Providers moved from paper forms to electronic versions and had patients submit them in advance. 
  • Patients could check-in virtually before coming to the office, which cut down on time in the waiting room.
  • Copays began to be collected online, and providers started communicating more through email and text than before.

 

Streamlining services and processes improves providers’ and employees’ experience, which leads to more engagement and fewer redundancies. 

Increasing the Role of Nonphysicians

The United States has long known that we have a physician shortage,5 which has only continued to grow as Americans live longer and require more care later on in life. The coronavirus pandemic strained our healthcare system to the max, putting a giant spotlight on our country’s immediate need for more physicians. 

 

Nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants play a critical role in our healthcare system but are limited in their practice scope. In response to overflooding emergency rooms, hospitals, and urgent care facilities, twenty-nine states decided to temporarily waive certain practice and oversight requirements to allow nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants to take on more responsibility and play a bigger role in the pandemic. 

 

Practice requirements were waived for physician assistants, such as granting them the ability to diagnose patients and prescribe medication without a physician’s agreement, which is normally required. In sixteen states, governments temporarily waived some aspect of the requirement that physicians oversee APRNs, and five states suspended all practice requirements requiring physician oversight for APRNs.

 

There has long been a call in this country for a healthcare industry trend to lift some of the restrictions that limit the scope of practice for nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants, within reason. The executive orders and laws across the country that temporarily suspended or waived these limitations provide evidence that may show that these healthcare providers are ready and capable of taking on more responsibility. And, this pandemic showed that we need more healthcare support. 

Another Step Away from Traditional Employer-Based Health Insurance

The COVID19 pandemic led to unprecedented job losses in our country. One study estimated that nearly 27 million Americans might have lost their health insurance because they were laid off or furloughed.6 This pandemic highlighted the vulnerability that we have long known – many Americans rely on their employer as their only means of obtaining health insurance. 

 

There has been a big push for changes in health care through advocating for personal health insurance. Congressional members have already called on President Joe Biden to make this a priority of his administration. Personal health insurance puts the ball in your court to do the research, choose an insurance company, and select your plan. This option gives you more control over your family’s health insurance options.

 

Benefits of personal health insurance:

  • You don’t have to rely on an employer to make sure you and your family have health insurance. 
  • You have the power to choose the best insurance and plan that meets your needs.
  • You can choose a plan that works with your favorite doctors and hospitals.  
 

Unfortunately, freedom of choice comes at a cost. Employers pay 83% of health care premiums on average for individuals.7 Buying a policy on your own leaves you to cover all the costs associated with your insurance plan.  Employers typically also have plan administrators that research, select and oversee insurance policies on your behalf.  When finding a personal policy, this responsibility will fall to you, so it is important to do your homework!  Take time to research and comparison shop to find a plan that makes the most sense for you and your situation.

Healthcare Industry Trends That Are Here to Stay

It’s incredible to think that only 120 years ago, scientists were first discovering that there were different types of blood types. Now, people live longer than ever, and we have advancements in healthcare to thank for that. The last decade really prepared us to deal with the COVID19 pandemic. If it hadn’t been for the recent advancements in technology, telehealth may not have been a viable option when we couldn’t get to doctors’ offices. If medical research had not been expanded upon so much, we might not have developed a vaccine in record time. The changes in health care from the last decade helped us deal with the pandemic, and the healthcare trends brought about by the pandemic will continue to help us in the future. 

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Sources:

  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323538#medical-milestones-20th-century
  2. https://www.forbes.com/sites/blakemorgan/2020/10/01/post-covid-19-patient-experience-3-ways-healthcare-has-changed/?sh=3098e2f9b59f
  3. https://www.lumahealth.io/blog/consumerization-of-healthcare-stages-of-patient-centric-transformation-accelerated-by-covid-19/
  4. https://vsee.com/what-is-telemedicine/
  5. https://www.aamc.org/news-insights/press-releases/new-findings-confirm-predictions-physician-shortage
  6. https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/eligibility-for-aca-health-coverage-following-job-loss/
  7. https://www.encyclopedia.com/articles/how-much-should-an-employer-pay-for-employees-health-insurance/#:~:text=The%20figures%20change%20depending%20on%20what%20percentage%20of,83%20percent%20of%20health%20insurance%20premiums,%20on%20average.