Will health care be fundamentally changed after COVID-19?

1. Retail pharmacies

Consumers want convenience, so in the trend toward one-stop shopping, the pharmacy gathers a lot of the primary interactions with patients. And the pharmacy is growing and providing even greater healthcare. The trend extends to grocery chains hiring dietitians to advise in stores. Companies like Walmart take this further, adding primary care physicians in addition to the eye care and audiology services they have been offering for many years, and becoming a true healthcare provider for both clients and staff.

And the convergence trend is not limited to physical stores. Amazon is exploring the potential of setting up a health care company just for their staff, which they believe will be a better value and higher quality service than their current healthcare. They have embraced this in their consumer business also with pharmacy services and a transition to supplying drones.

2. Retail Shopping Centers

As we see the transition from physical retail to more online shopping, malls or malls that support stores are emptied and become vacant. Healthcare organizations are seeing an opportunity to transform these spaces into care facilities. These repurposed health centers are especially useful for diagnosing and imaging, outpatient surgery, primary care, and treating minor injuries. Shopping malls and malls create ideal locations for health care because they are designed for large crowds and are often at the center of communities with transport infrastructure and ample parking already in place.

In the North, planners are looking to build health centers in new subdivisions to promote community engagement and movement and in an effort to prevent health issues associated with social isolation. The vision is that these facilities will encourage wellness using AI and analytical technology, combined with access to primary care and other healthcare services.

3. Virtual care

Access to health advice through online channels began with search engines, but has become more structured and accurate with the advent of wearable technology and virtual care.

The wearables market is beginning to explode as regulation and payment models capture the potential of technology.

Telephone access to a triage nurse has been common practice for many years. Now, increases in communication bandwidth, regular phone apps, and the need for social distancing during the pandemic have made virtual face-to-face calling more acceptable to clinicians and consumers alike. In many places around the world, virtual care over video was launched to alleviate the long distances some clients needed to travel to seek help from mental health professionals. These programs expand over time to other disciplines, including post-surgical care, dermatology and others.

4. Caring for our Seniors and Disabled People

Improvements in access to healthcare and technology allow patients who have mobility challenges to see their doctors more regularly without the challenge of traveling. People of all abilities and ages may be able to stay in their homes longer instead of going to a care facility. Patients with complex conditions can be monitored and cared for, as they would in an older living facility. In turn, these facilities must enhance the life experience they offer, invest in digital health technologies and maintain the affordability to stay relevant.

Where are we going from here?

New doors to access health care play a role in managing costs, driving quality and improving patient access and experience. As with all areas of care, change brings both opportunities and challenges. Many of the new doors to care will shine a light on inequality and social health regulations.

So will healthcare delivery change as we know it? Yes, change is inevitable. Many market forces support the transformation of virtual digital health programs, and the COVID-19 pandemic is just the latest compelling event. Using data and analytics in this space will be a game changer in terms of both achieving better health outcomes, running health (not just health care) and seeing a universal approach to care for the benefit of all citizens.

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