THOUGHTS

Staying Prepared to Combat the Pandemic: Lessons for the US Healthcare Industry from Italy’s Response Flaws

Apr 6, 2020

The WHO (World Health Organization) ranks Italy among the top 10 countries with high quality of healthcare and related services in the world. Although the Italian healthcare system is far from perfect, this rating by the WHO is largely based on equality of healthcare access and other healthcare outcomes such as life expectancy and healthy life years of the population. Despite displaying qualities of a higher level of care and healthcare services, Italy is currently the new epicenter for COVID-19.  

Despite now having some of the toughest measures in the world to contain the spread of the pandemic, Italian authorities were slow to react and fumbled many of those steps in the early stages of the contagion as they sought to preserve basic civil liberties as well as the economy, raising the fatality of the coronavirus outbreak in the country. The number of reported coronavirus-positive cases in the US has skyrocketed over the past few weeks, and the death toll from COVID-19 in the US is not far behind that of Italy. The rising number of cases has already overwhelmed the US healthcare industry. In this article, healthcare industry experts at Infiniti Research outline some key takeaways for the US healthcare industry from Italy’s flawed response to the outbreak and how healthcare companies in the US can prevent themselves from a similar fate.

US healthcare industry COVID-19

Ensuring protection of healthcare staff  

The US has surpassed the initial phase where the spread of the COVID-19 can be contained completely. As such, what companies in the US healthcare industry need now is to be equipped with the staff and resources to cater to the rising number of cases in the country. In Italy, over 2500 healthcare workers have become victims of the novel coronavirus outbreak. They account for approximately 20% of Italy’s healthcare staff who are out of action due to active infection and are subject to isolation or even death due to the virus.

The US healthcare industry cannot afford a similar situation in the current state, as such, they must ensure the safety of healthcare staff at all costs. Appropriate PPE should be provided to the staff based on the area in which they work Furthermore, supplies should be plentiful and necessary training must be imparted to the staff on guidelines to treat coronavirus patients. Apart from this, it is vital to offer timely and efficient testing of staff in order to ensure safety.

Rationing resources fairly

The surging COVID-19 cases can drive companies in the US healthcare industry into an agonizing emergency scenario and will require caregiver to take several crucial decisions. Rationing the available resources fairly to meet the demand of the rising number of cases would be one of the most crucial decisions to be made. The resources include ICU, ventilators, medicines, and staff to care for the patients.  One of the first steps in managing available resources is screening outpatients who are unlikely to need critical care and urging them to self-quarantine at home. Providers in the US healthcare industry must also strive to look at the cases and try to evaluate as quickly and efficiently as possible the likelihood that they can improve a patient’s condition faster.

Set patient treatment guidelines

Providers in the US healthcare industry Hospitals could adopt a lottery or first-come-first-served system for triaging patients. However, this could mean that someone less sick is treated before an infected patient who needs critical care, thereby potentially failing to achieve the goal of saving the most lives. Hospitals could choose to treat worse-off patients first, but if those people are unlikely to survive, doctors might be better off focusing on people who are less infected. However, the chances of survival of these guidelines in an extreme crisis situation remain to be seen. Professionals in the US healthcare industry are of the opinion that as the US currently lacks an exact historical comparison for how the coronavirus pandemic could play out, these guidelines offer general principles for steering hospital decision-making. Having predetermined guidelines prove helpful not just for determining which patients to treat but also on how long to treat them.

Undertake extensive testing

Timely and rapid testing for healthcare workers as well as the general public with symptoms, and those who are asymptomatic is the need of the hour to help the US healthcare industry to prepare better for what lies ahead. Apart from the clinical benefits of COVID-19 testing such as creating an action plan for treating low- and high-risk patients, the primary purpose of testing during a pandemic is advancing public health. Testing allows tracking who has COVID-19 and can help limit the community’s spread of the virus.

Want more insights on how our healthcare market intelligence solutions can help stakeholders in the US healthcare industry to better organize patient treatment plans, allocate medical resources, and be better equipped to fight the pandemic?

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