COVID-19 has changed health care in big ways. But which changes will become permanent? The Harvard Business Review outlines three potential outcomes for our healthcare system, including a worst-case scenario.
Best-case COVID-19 scenario
In 3 Scenarios for How the Pandemic Could Change U.S. Health Care, authors David Blumenthal, Eric C. Schneider, Shanoor Seervai, and Arnav Shahpos explore how three potential COVID-19 outcomes could change our healthcare system.
The best-case scenario hinges on local and state governments widely implementing restrictions like face coverings and social distancing — and the public following these restrictions. It also depends on anti-viral treatments being developed soon, followed quickly by an effective vaccine. In this scenario,the health-care system would be experiencing inpatient and outpatient volumes comparable to pre-pandemic levels within a year.
However, even in this optimistic scenario, the health-care system will still experience permanent change, including the shutdown of hospitals or clinics that lacked the resources to ride out the pandemic. As a result, patients will have fewer providers to choose from.
Worst-case COVID-19 scenario
At the other end of the spectrum, the worst-case scenario will result if state and local governments fail to enforce adequate restrictions and if the the public fails to follow the restrictions that are in place. In this scenario, there are no viable treatments or vaccines, and the health-care system becomes overrun with COVID-19 patients. In addition, millions more Americans lose their jobs — and lose their health insurance — as a result of the pandemic.
In this scenario, the demand for health-care services outside of COVID-19 treatment would decrease dramatically. High-risk populations would continue to be reluctant to return to facilities for necessary care.
Fortunately, this doomsday scenario is unlikely. COVID-19 cases across the United States have begun to plateau, and some places are seeing fewer cases every day.
Most likely COVID-19 outcome
It’s unlikely that the COVID-19 crisis will be resolved soon, but it’s also unlikely to result in an irreparable health-care catastrophe. COVID-19’s impact on the health-care system will most likely fall somewhere in the middle. Some areas will rigorously abide by restrictions, and others will eventually balk. An anti-viral regimen could be available by the new year, followed by a vaccine. The effect on the health-care system under this scenario will be different in different parts of the country. Areas that follow restrictions and have high vaccination rates will experience much lower transmission rates, while areas that don’t may continue to struggle with COVID-19.
No matter what happens from here on out, COVID-19 will alter the healthcare system. Click here to read the full article from the Harvard Business Review.