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Building an equitable, accessible healthcare for all

As we reach the mid of 2021, the world continues to combat the COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic is giving rise to new challenges – health, economic and mental – the devastations of which will be evident for years to come. This is a perfect time for the healthcare ecosystem to anticipate, assess and plan for the long-term changes. While there are several challenges to undertake, a few topics that are accelerated and are under the spotlight are given below. Focusing on them would ensure equitable and accessible healthcare for all.

Unifying a fragmented healthcare system

COVID-19 revealed the challenges in the distribution and management of resources and information in disparate health systems. Even at the mass vaccination initiatives, there are challenges in mass coordination.

Lack of a unified, centralized healthcare system across the country and the challenges it poses in managing the pandemic demand put interoperability in action at the earliest. There should be a free flow of information exchange, have a network connection in place, without compromising data security and privacy. However, unifying fragmented health systems brings forth the challenges of data sharing across enterprises, logistical coordination, supply chain management, and resource allocation.

Embracing virtual care

The volume of telehealth consultations increased dramatically over the past year. Patients have become comfortable accessing care via technology. Healthcare service providers hastily developed systems built with Skype and WhatsApp video calls to deliver care remotely. However, these are not robust enough to sustain the level of high usage permanently. There are also challenges to the integration of such systems with Hospital Information systems, issues of data privacy, and reliability.

Since virtual care is now a part of day-to-day affairs, the healthcare ecosystem must integrate telehealth solutions into their digital systems, define solid protocols and revamp the clinical practice to accommodate telehealth consultations.

Addressing mental health

Pandemic-fueled social and economic disruption has resulted in growing mental unrest among people. The cases of depression and anxiety disorders have amped up across the country. The cultural practice of remaining silent about mental health and the trauma associated with revealing such difficulties make it difficult to address such challenges in the households. People tend to brush off chronic depression as “mood-off” and leave it unattended.

Putting strong community support in place to address mental disorders is a challenge for healthcare systems. Healthcare service providers must have a comprehensive understanding of the social challenges, take initiatives to normalize the talks of mental disorders, and identify gaps in mental care delivery to fight this increasing challenge.

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