With COVID-19 rapidly changing the landscape of hospitals and medical practices, providers across specialties are adapting their care to strive for the best outcomes possible.
Leading physician associations are updating guidelines and practice recommendations as well as advocating for their memberships with local and federal agencies. Recent publications emphasize efforts to screen for COVID-19, delay routine care, suspend non-emergent procedures, ration personal protective equipment and adapt visitor and staffing policies.
- National Comprehensive Cancer Network published extensive recommendations based on Seattle’s response, including prioritization of surgical intervention in the interest of preserving critical PPE, staffing and bed capacity (citing the example that several months of endocrine therapy and delay of surgery may be appropriate for some patients with early stage HR+ breast cancer).
- American Society for Reproductive Medicine has recommended that practices suspend most fertility treatment cycles, including considering cancellation of embryo transfers.
- American Academy of Pediatrics is encouraging the use of tele-medicine platforms for assessment of acute and chronic illnesses, and exercise of appropriate discretion for scheduling of well-child visits and vaccinations; the organization is releasing regular videos with guidance on topics like managing complex medical conditions during COVID-19 and infection control practices.
Alongside these recommendations, medical associations are discussing the challenges of providing care under such provisions.
Potential Impacts to Industry and Market Research
As communities work proactively to limit the negative impact of COVID-19, it is important as a health community to anticipate what may evolve, even when the pandemic begins to resolve:
- HCPs may be less accessible for market research: When it is safe to resume routine care, practices may be overwhelmed with rescheduling procedures, assessments and visits that were missed during the crisis—potentially impacting typical availability for participation.
- Treatment habits and considerations may have shifted: Providers are weighing different treatment dynamics, as COVID-19 introduces a different risk-benefit assessment (based both on risk to individual patients with compromised immunity due to disease or treatment and on risk to burdening the health system while stressed). The outcomes of these decisions will carry past the pandemic, as HCPs address these outcomes and reassess their treatment algorithms.
- Burnout may impact beliefs and sentiment until normalcy is sustained: HCP burnout is already a notable concern, as providers balance the difficulty of care with lack of resources and are unable to connect to their support network for fear of exposure; such burnout is known to have lasting effects on retention and recruitment in the medical field.
“In the United States, we are fortunate to provide care for patients with cancer in a resource-rich environment with state-of-the-art, lifesaving treatments.
However, the reality of diminishing supplies and hospital resources in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic is a departure from our usual state.
The potential threat of COVID-19 to our immunocompromised patients as a result of their disease or the treatment we provide is thought to be significant, tipping the usual risk-benefit balance in extreme ways.”
–JNCCN, Cancer Care During COVID-19
Rising to the Challenge
Healthcare is leveraging technology in new ways that may have a positive impact for the system and market research moving forward:
- Receptivity to rapid innovation: Hospitals, systems and associations are developing new protocols in record time to address the crisis, sharing information openly and rapidly advancing collaboration.
- Opening up virtual communication and connected care: Practices are leveraging tele-health services to monitor chronic patients, a model that could lead to transformative management capabilities while also providing new data sources as providers become more experienced with virtual communication.
- Exposure to new fields and treatments: Hospitals are flexing capacity, expanding critical services, and may be asking providers to work outside of their given specialty—these factors may open up exposure to different HCP interests and awareness/adoption of different treatments, and alter belief systems that affect HCP decisions.
- Goodwill efforts abound: Organizations are working to offer flexible mental health support to HCPs through multiple channels, and businesses are offering logistical support through food delivery and childcare, demonstrating strong support for those on the front lines. Those of us who work closely with providers should explore feasible ways to “give back” to providers today, to help reduce their burden and increase resiliency for HCPs.
Challenges to Long-Held Truths and Paradigm-Shifting Innovation
As a healthcare researcher—and simply as an empathic human—I’m concerned for our HCPs facing these challenges. As we learn more about COVID-19 and practices adapt to meet evolving demands, we need to appreciate how the changes and outcomes will impact providers long term. Researchers must consider that long-held “truths” about HCPs may change and be prepared to learn and innovate through our future research assumptions, design and methods. I look forward to collaborating with my clients and the patients and HCPs we have discussions with to smartly navigate the inevitable paradigm shifts in a post-COVID-19 world.
The Escalent Health team is committed to keeping you updated with the lastest developments. We encourage you to read our most recent COVID-19 Healthcare Market Research Newsletter. It presents articles addressing tension and conveying hope to help you navigate the pandemic as a whole person, inclusive of your personal and market researcher self. Stay Home, Stay Safe and Be Well.