Rapid Changes To Health System Spurred By Pandemic Might Be Here To Stay

June 9, 2020 by Christen Aldrich

Filed under COVID-19 for Employers, COVID-19 for the Workforce

Last modified June 10, 2020

As discussed in this article by Kaiser Health News, the U.S. health care system is famously resistant to government-imposed change. It took decades to create Medicare and Medicaid, mostly due to opposition from the medical-industrial complex. Then it was nearly another half-century before the passage of the Affordable Care Act. But the COVID-19 pandemic has done what no one could have imagined: It forced sudden major changes to the nation’s health care system that are unlikely to be reversed.

“Health care is never going back to the way it was before,” said health economist Gail Wilensky.

Telehealth is being used more than ever, and likely not going to diminish. Another trend that has suddenly accelerated is worry over the nation’s dwindling supply of primary care doctors. Fewer current medical students are choosing specialties in primary care, and the American Academy of Family Physicians reports that 70% of primary care physicians are reporting declines in patient volume of 50% or more since March.

The pandemic might also lead to less emphasis on hospital-based care. While hospitals in many parts of the country have obviously been full of sick COVID patients, they have closed down other nonemergency services to preserve supplies and resources to fight the pandemic. 

All of these changes are happening at a pace few have ever seen. “When you’re forced to find different ways of doing things and you find out they are easier and more efficient, it’s going to be hard to go back to the old way,” Wilensky said.

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