How can the healthcare system prepare for future pandemics?

WORDS: Mr. Kunal Sawhney , CEO , Kalkine Group PHOTOGRAPHY Supplied

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the very foundation of the global healthcare systems, leaving several medical institutions incapacitated for an extended period. While wreaking havoc in almost every aspect of daily life, the pandemic has further induced a cautionary behaviour among decision-makers against a future streak of possible pandemics.

Meanwhile, the ongoing pandemic has taught health professionals the importance of staying connected through technology, even when social conditions do not allow the same. As medical services and staff across the globe continue to deal with the massive influx of patients, there is a constant need for an emergency action plan for such situations.

Moreover, the past year has taught medical professionals that overcoming a pandemic requires more than just sound presence of mind and a solid action plan. Much of the required preparedness comes from the underlying medical setup, which needs to be developed to withstand even the most extreme conditions.

Here are some essential tips that global healthcare organisations can integrate into their structure to remain well-positioned against future pandemics:

Developing a strong workforce

Lack of adequate staff in the medical community can be a major deterrent in fighting large scale outbreaks. The nature of the COVID-19 disease underlined the importance of separate teams to monitor patient behaviour and health alongside changing symptoms.

Much like COVID-19, any novice disease requires a large medical support team to cure the ongoing symptoms and keep them in check while monitoring them for future reference. Moreover, medical professionals need to be given proper training to stay prepared for unprecedented circumstances.

Governments can also play a crucial role in strengthening the medical workforce. They can help facilitate a smoother inflow of higher staff members in the medical community by incentivising education in the sphere and spreading awareness about the profession.

Identifying primary threats

Updated technology can predict when COVID-like waves can be expected in the coming years based on the historical data of the timelines of various pandemics. Medical professionals can also determine the family to which these upcoming pandemics may belong. For instance, ongoing research suggests that the next pandemics may come from the coronavirus or influenza families.

In fact, the threats can be more accurately identified if the public and private sector medical experts join hands and share relevant information. This joint effort can bring vaccine development closer and create higher chances of producing the right medicine for such fatal diseases.

Communicating effectively on a broad level

Communicating the risks and symptoms associated with a disease to a fear-stricken audience can be a tough task. While some individuals deliberately ignore medical guidelines, others tend to over-contemplate the situation, inciting mass panic.

Thus, it is important that the medical community wisely utilise broadcasting channels such as media to make a larger audience aware of the potential situations. Hospitals and medical institutions can assign a team of individuals who are aware of the subject to take press conferences and meetings. Meanwhile, information should be delegated in a manner that only essential points are conveyed precisely.

Creating a global support system

International medical institutions have remained hostile to some extent in supporting those nations that were undergoing a crisis during the pandemic. While some countries came to help the severely affected nations, a lot more could have been done to keep the global death toll low.

Many developed nations had the opportunity to ship medical equipment and vaccination to nations facing medical crises, an effort which they resorted to only to generate mass appreciation and stay in the limelight. Consequently, countries facing supply constraints had to bear a larger brunt. As we look forward to pandemic-like situations in the future, creating an international support system seems necessary to prevent the breakdown of medical systems in individual countries.

Utilising technology in the best way possible

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted different uses of technology in the medical arena and has resulted in some unheard innovations. While the pandemic situation is relatively under control, making innovations is a constant requirement for further advancement of technologies. Public and private institutions should encourage the usage of modern equipment even when circumstances are normal.

As a solution to fight the possible string of future pandemics, medical personnel should be offered training on new and emerging medical tools that can be accessed fully when the need arises. Without any practical experience, medical staff might not be able to adjust to changing techniques easily.

In a nutshell, predicting a pandemic may not be a realistic task, but preparing for one has become a mandate given present circumstances. To avoid the widespread chaos seen during the COVID-19 waves, medical institutions must start preparing for future pandemics in the current period, taking cues from previous shortcomings.