There are very few people across the globe whose lives weren’t affected by COVID-19. From suffering the loss of loved ones to missing out on years of valuable education, the pandemic had a huge and lasting impact on all types of people and industries.
Unfortunately, studies are suggesting that pandemics are set to become increasingly common, with climate change making these types of global events more likely.
With that in mind, the world will turn to one key industry in particular – healthcare – to help us future-proof our world against the possibility of upcoming pandemics.
Here are the lessons the healthcare industry learned from COVID-19 that it must take into future pandemics going forwards.
1. Create Adequate PPE
One of the biggest challenges that the public, businesses, and healthcare providers faced at the start of the pandemic was insufficient PPE.
Items such as visors and masks were in short supply, which means that healthcare workers were catching the virus from patients, creating a staffing shortage just when they were needed most.
In the future, the healthcare industry must create closer relationships with suppliers to avoid history repeating itself.
2. Invest in Biopharmaceuticals
The biopharmaceutical is a sector of the pharmaceutical industry that creates medicine and treatments from living cells, rather than synthetic substances.
This industry has been responsible for huge breakthroughs in medicine, from the creation of insulin to the discovery of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Sourcing services like bioanalytical CRO from trusted companies should be a priority, as should investing in companies that specialize in vaccine research and creation.
That way, when the next pandemic hits, we’ll be in a better position to discover a suitable vaccine before too many people are impacted.
3. Prescribe Lifestyle Changes
One phenomenon that we saw during the pandemic, was the increased likelihood of hospitalization among people with existing illnesses.
Some of these illnesses – such as obesity and type 2 diabetes – were lifestyle related.
With this in mind, taking measures to improve the general health of the population can be invaluable when the next pandemic strikes. It could mean fewer people dying or ending up in hospital.
The best approach to improve general health is for doctors to prescribe lifestyle changes (where possible) alongside medicine.
High blood pressure, for example, can be reduced significantly by eating less salt and processed foods and reducing stress.
If the global population improves its overall health, not only are we in a better position to deal with illness, but it also frees up the time of healthcare professionals to deal with more acute illnesses.
4. Increase the Number of Staff Members
When COVID-19 happened, hospitals had to massively increase their capacity. With medicine being such a highly-skilled job, plugging holes in this sector is much more difficult in healthcare than in other industries.
For this reason, hospitals should consider ramping up recruitment to increase their workforce to future-proof hospitals’ ability to cope with unexpected upturns in disease.
Even outside of the pandemic, understaffing is a crucial issue, so turning attention toward recruitment drives is a must for the healthcare industries and governments with nationalized healthcare systems.
5. Prioritize Healthcare Workers
It’s no secret that healthcare workers are the backbone of any strong healthcare system. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, frontline workers, including community health workers, have selflessly risen to the challenge. Whether it’s been caring for the sick, making sure that vaccines reach the most vulnerable, testing and reporting cases, or keeping routine healthcare services going, their efforts have been immense.
6. Better Mental Health Provisions
For many healthcare workers, the pandemic was responsible for huge rates of burnout and mental health challenges. It’s easy to view doctors and nurses as superhuman, but being exposed to so many stressors day in and day out affects them just as much as it would anybody else.
If a future pandemic occurs, more emphasis needs to be put on looking after the well-being of healthcare workers to avoid burnout and a mass exodus of staff members once the pandemic is over.
In the unfortunate event of a future pandemic, being prepared will pay off. These are just some of the ways that the healthcare sector can prepare for challenges that are likely to arise. As the saying goes – prevention is better than cure!
7. Distribute New Vaccines Globally
In order to prevent the next pandemic from happening, we need to learn from our successes with former ones. The biggest success was the development of the Covid vaccine. It was developed quickly, approved, and made available to everyone, including those who cannot afford it. This saved countless lives through immunization and will do so again in case of another pandemic.
Firstly, to simplify the process of developing and approving vaccines, we need to increase and globalize vaccine manufacturing and use more technology transfers. This will enable us to rapidly produce large volumes of the vaccine if needed.
Secondly, a global distribution network and supply chains are both needed to get the vaccines out to those in need. Especially in poorer countries with limited access to healthcare.
According to Our World data, to this day, only 14.4% of people in low-income countries have received one dose. One way to help remedy this is by ensuring that the distribution networks are run by people who have experience with and understand the needs of these communities.
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 New study suggests risk of extreme pandemics like COVID-19 could increase threefold in coming decades: https://www.gavi.org/vaccineswork/new-study-suggests-risk-extreme-pandemics-covid-19-could-increase-threefold-coming
 PPE: What actually happened during the first wave? https://fullfact.org/health/ppe-shortages-first-wave/
 Bioanalytical CRO: https://www.scorpiusbiologics.com/bioanalytical-services
 Haldane, V., De Foo, C., Abdalla, S.M. et al. Health systems resilience in managing the COVID-19 pandemic: lessons from 28 countries. Nat Med 27, 964–980 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-021-01381-y
 Abuhammad S. Preparing for Future Pandemics: Challenges for Healthcare Leadership. J Healthc Leadersh. 2022 Sep 12;14:131-136. doi: 10.2147/JHL.S363650. PMID: 36118653; PMCID: PMC9480602.