The healthcare industry was seen as a defensive sector that would have minimal / no impact with economic downturns and meltdowns. This was primarily due to the notion that demand for healthcare would not fluctuate. However, this premise was proved wrong when the COVID-19 pandemic struck during early 2020. COVID-19 was a stress test to the industry and highlighted all the systemic flaws.
It is envisaged that COVID-19 infections will persist in the population into 2021, notwithstanding the rapid development of effective therapy or vaccination. Accordingly, doctors and hospitals will be treating patients while infections are still present in the community. The healthcare facilities and doctors will need to treat patients with resource constraints including, but not limited to, lack of virus or antibody testing capabilities, lack of contact tracing support, unavailability of nurses, doctors, admin staff, personal protective equipment (PPE), and shortage of hospital or ICU beds.
To understand the impact of COVID-19 and the way forward for the sector, we undertook a study involving 125 senior executives of the healthcare industry. The report is aimed at answering three key questions, 1. What is the extent of impact to the sector from COVID 19? 2. What is the propensity to adapt to digital health? 3. What is the outlook for the sector from a three-year horizon?
For Indian hospitals, the key to remaining relevant and sustaining the winds of change will be to steer their way through the rapidly changing preferences of the patient. The place, nature, and the type of care is changing as you read this report. Hospitals, both big and small need to embrace these changes to continue their care journey. Signs of an impending transformation are already showing. Johns Hopkins Medicine, one of the top hospitals in the world, is currently seeing 5,500 virtual visits per day as against a few dozen telehealth visits each day before the COVID-19 pandemic struck the country and about 30% of the in-person visits are expected to convert to virtual visits.
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