The disruption COVID-19 has caused globally is nothing short of mind-blowing and extremely fatiguing. On a daily basis, new information is released about economic declines, healthcare burdens, and the ever-changing social distancing norms. Across the US, there are varying degrees of social distancing, shelter-in-place recommendations, and acceptance from the community on steps going forwards. We have recently seen protests to open the country and at times horrific images from the community we are trying to protect. No matter where you may stand on these issues, we can agree the road to recovery from this pandemic for America will be long and challenging. The work going forward will require continued teamwork to keep Americans healthy. Here are a few of my thoughts, in no particular order, that we should keep in mind.
- Pediatric population: the recent decline in outpatient availability has reduced primary care milestones. Many children are delayed in getting their vaccinations as a result of COVID-19. Plans of efficiently having children receive their vaccinations will be instrumental, especially those who will be of school age.
- Elective procedures: during this pandemic, in efforts to reduce potential exposure various procedures have been postponed. All across medicine, we have delayed elective cardiac catheterizations, ablations, numerous surgeries, and even radiological imaging. Some institutions have started to plan to have extended operating room hours or even full surgical days on the weekend. All divisions will have to consider the same to be able to catch up with the outpatient procedures. Of course, a tremendous amount of resources will need to be dedicated to this endeavor which adds another layer of complexity.
- Future clinic visits: something we will have to keep in mind is if we will have clinic days where we only see COVID-19 positive patients. Keeping patients in the waiting rooms safe from potential sources of infection will be of utmost importance. Many epidemiologists believe there will be a second surge but it’s hard to predict it’s impact. Of course, the challenge in America is the lack of universal testing therefore there can be patients who have COVID-19 but were never identified.
- Health Care Reform: the COVID-19 pandemic in America has highlighted the pitfalls of our health care system. A big share of Americans are uninsured and we as citizens carry more medical debt than our counterparts from other developed nations. And one of the single biggest problems, which is largely American, is cost. In my short career, I frequently meet patients who do not seek medical care due to the costs associated with routine care. I’ve had patients fight with me to use their own medications because the same medications in the hospital setting are exponentially more expensive. The downfalls of the American health system, which already placed us behind our peers on many medical outcomes, have been exposed in this outbreak. I don’t know what the right course is moving forward but I hope to be a part of it.
We are continuing to fight the COVID-19 pandemic with all of our strength and energy, but we have a long road ahead of us. If we continue to work together, collaborate, and utilize our resources efficiently, we will continue to be successful.
“The views, opinions and positions expressed within this blog are those of the author(s) alone and do not represent those of the American Heart Association. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them. The Early Career Voice blog is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment. Only your healthcare provider can provide that. The American Heart Association recommends that you consult your healthcare provider regarding your personal health matters. If you think you are having a heart attack, stroke or another emergency, please call 911 immediately.”
Barinder Hansra, known as “Ricky” to his friends and family, is a physician-scientist-teacher living his best life at University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester, MA. His focus is on cardiac critical care and cardio-obstetrics, and is headed to Stanford University for another fellowship. Follow on Twitter: @rickyhansra