COVID-19: Four business continuity challenges the medical industry will face

Providing the best care with limited funding has always been a challenge for hospitals and care facilities. After the pandemic, the medical industry will be pressed to focus on continuity projects.

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There's no question that even after COVID-19, the hangover will be felt across all industries. One of the hardest hit was the medical industry, specifically hospitals, care centers, and physician's offices. Going forward, continuity of care will require these four changes.

1. Risk identification and management 

Hospitals, physicians, senior care facilities, and other centers have been among the most taxed during COVID-19 as they struggle to find ways to quickly identify potential risk points and develop ways to address them. With the impact on patient care and the risk of deaths, no group has felt the pressure as much as frontline care workers and hospital administrators. 

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Since emergency services are the first place to feel the impact, going forward, there will be increased pressure for the medical industry to develop iron-clad continuity plans. This will mean ensuring a dedicated team is tasked with finding ways to be better prepared for different scenarios so it can spring into action ahead of time. The focus will need to be on capacity planning, more streamlined internal protocols for testing, the supply chain, and alternate methods of care, including the use of technology. 

2. Supply chain and procurement

One of the biggest challenges that front line staff face under normal conditions is not having enough supplies, and it's been much worse  during the COVID-19 outbreak. Pandemics pose a more difficult challenge than other mass emergencies. The sheer nature of a virus creates an unseen enemy that can rapidly spread around the world in short order. This can put a massive strain on resources, bringing out the best and worst in people. This pandemic caused hospitals and private care centers to work with less than ideal equipment, putting themselves and patients at unnecessary risk. The medical industry will need to work with governments and private sector companies to secure the most essential supplies and equipment in advance of the next medical emergency. These supplies will need to be manufactured locally, where possible, and safely stored locally, with additional quantities accessible more expediently. 

3. Talent management

It's no secret that hospitals are normally short-staffed. Skilled doctors, nurses, and support professionals are hard to come by, particularly during emergencies. Over-scheduled front-line staff can further complicate situations that impact care. The most qualified and dedicated care workers can make unintended mistakes when they become burned out. Resource planning and talent management are a struggle for most companies, but the consequences are far greater in hospitals and care centers, especially during emergencies like COVID-19. 

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Going forward, governments will need to work with the medical industry and training institutions to develop incentives to bring more talent into the industry where it's needed most. Hospitals will need to re-evaluate their hiring and retention policies. In no other industry will the risk to human health and safety be more paramount. 

4. Care delivery methods

Our reliance on technology, data, and science to rapidly deliver testing kits, supplies, and equipment became glaringly apparent during this pandemic. So, too, has our dependence on finding ways to deliver care without face-to-face contact. Allocating precious resources where they are needed most will rely on leveraging web-based doctor and specialist visits and artificial intelligence to lighten the load of medical professionals. 

Changing how basic medical care is practiced can free up time and resources for more essential roles that require face-to-face acute care. Using analytics for scenario planning and preparedness can help the medical industry identify ways to rapidly build temporary medical centers, quickly adjust protocols and processes, triage, and be ready to hit the ground running the next time an emergency hits. 

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Side view of young female surgeon tying her surgical mask

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