Cardiac Care post COVID-19 Era
The prolonged pandemic has resulted in a shift in the daily functioning of the healthcare industry and an acute need to adapt to the rising challenges as well as a future after COVID-19. Especially in cases where the patients have pre-existing conditions like cardiovascular diseases and risks, the health care guidelines and care have undergone numerous changes. Patients with heart problems are at a higher risk of contracting the virus, and this has resulted in a change in the way care is being administered. A lot of these changes also have to do with fear among patients regarding physical visits.
COVID-19 has put speed breaks on most face-to-face consultations and elective procedures. Given the situation, tele-consultations have become popular among patients and is a convenient option during the restrictions and for those who are scared to visit hospitals. However, tele-consultations are not enough and cannot be normalized for those patients who have severe or serious symptoms. A study by the European Society of Cardiology shows that during the early months of the pandemic the number of heart attack patients seeking urgent hospital care dropped by over 50%. This sentiment has put the lives of heart patients at high risk. So it becomes necessary to focus on building trust among patients that hospitals are safe spaces.
While the virus will eventually start going away, we do need to follow certain procedures to ensure the patients’ safety for quite a while in future. PPE kits and sanitary procedures before every check-up and social distancing norms will have to become a part of the normal as well as state-of-the-art screening and preventive centres. However, it is advisable to treat every patient following infection control practices so that, there are zero lapses in sanitization and isolated beds for the safety of both the medical practitioners as well as the patients.
The tele-health concept will also adapt with time and we will need to rely on that to administer care to patients with mild symptoms. Even other procedures will need some backing and innovation so that other procedures can start, as the pause on elective procedures is not the best strategy in an uncertain scenario.
Tele-health services can also give insights into the heart care situation in India and be an effective way of documenting the cases to ramp up the healthcare guidelines and technology. There will be a lot of procedures with early discharges to ensure that patients don’t have to stay back in the hospital longer, and the follow-ups will be done remotely. Fortunately, we are living in a technologically charged world and that will help prevent a burden on healthcare workers as things start opening up. There will be a higher level of commitment to a digitally enabled future.
While the pandemic has impacted every healthcare sector and healthcare workers, it has also brought to the fore the need for adaptability and incorporation of various options to bridge the limitations of our healthcare system as well as create a robust mechanism in place that can provide effective long term solutions.
Inputs from Senior Cardiologist, Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai