“What if there’s another lockdown?”
“I don’t think that will happen.”
“We didn’t think the last time there would be another one. Yet it happened.”
“If it happens again, I’ll arrange for your transport. You won’t have to miss any chemotherapy sessions.”
Some months ago, I overheard this conversation between an elderly patient and a senior oncologist in the hospital corridor. And it has stayed with me, perhaps, because it shows how Covid has been such a powerful catalyst for change.
To say that the healthcare landscape has been rapidly evolving over the last two years would be stating the obvious. Amidst the waves of infection and the variants, effective vaccines have been developed in record time. There has also been accelerated adoption of virtual health solutions, making healthcare more convenient and accessible for a large majority of Indians.
Yet the biggest silver lining of the pandemic, in my opinion, has been the strengthening of the ever so delicate bond between patients and healthcare providers. In crisis, the relationship has become stronger, driven by greater trust and empathy.
As a cancer hospital, we faced some tough dilemmas during the lockdowns and the subsequent “new normal”. Our primary concern was to ensure that patients don’t stop their treatment abruptly. Doctors, nurses, and the care team spoke to each patient about their concerns and fears to help address them effectively.
In many cases, we realised that the anxiety was mostly due to the patients’ compromised immune systems that made them more prone to infections. Tele-consultation and video consultations have helped patients stay connected with their doctors, while home-based nursing services ensured that the quality of care wasn’t compromised.
Advancement and adoption of healthcare technology has been vital, but it was not the only factor. Patient-centric mindset became the crux of healthcare. Healthcare providers found ways to make personalized treatment plans, based on the patient’s unique circumstances and challenges, a reality. Treatment protocols blended seamlessly with value-based personalised care to produce better clinical outcomes.
There’s so much talk about the promise of technology in health – whether it’s artificial intelligence (AI)-powered chatbots or robot-assisted surgeries – that people are wondering whether healthcare professionals will become obsolete. Will there be robot doctors and nurses in the future?
Research shows that patients prefer the human touch. Technology can facilitate data-driven decision-making and bring in more efficiency and cost-effectiveness in certain areas of care. It acts as complementary for doctors, nurses, and the hospital ecosystem to provide more patient centric care. More so in the case of chronic conditions like cancer that demand a multi-disciplinary, long-term approach.
The pandemic has spurred the move from a conventionally provider-centric healthcare model to a more evidence-based, patient-centric model, driven by what patients value the most- Empathy, Trust, Transparency, clear Communication.
In today’s age of misinformation, it’s important to ensure that people get accurate and appropriate health information. It’s not just about Covid vaccines or miracle cures for cancer, but encouraging healthier conversations that inspire hope. Healthcare providers can play a pivotal role in this regard.
As we move forward and continue to leverage digital health tools to bridge the yawning demand and supply gap in healthcare, let’s not forget the valuable lessons the pandemic has taught us. The future of healthcare is in hybrid care models that put the patient front and centre, catering to their needs in the most humane manner.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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