Many things were in short supply in 2021. People initially thought the blame lay on a cargo ship stuck in the Suez Canal, but in reality there are several factors impacting the supply chain. A trade war, the pandemic lockdown, changes in buying habits, social trends and the great resignation also contributed to shortages felt throughout the United States. These factors continue to plague the supply chain and are making changes throughout several industries. Of those factors, social trends impact healthcare systems in the US more today than ever. Social trends include consumer demand for transparency, an Opioid Crisis, and evolving recognition of the need to make healthcare available to those in every social strata.
Easy access to an incredible amount of data on the internet is creating a demand for even more information, authenticity and transparency. Consumers are demanding it in politics and business as well as in the healthcare industry. As a result, there is broad demand for better access to medical services and price transparency. A recent visit as a patient to my doctor’s office revealed mandatory fliers outlining patient billing methods including, “surprise invoicing.” While I have experienced the phenomenon often in the past, I never had a medical office make sure I was aware of the possibility. It is all part of the response to consumer demand for transparency in billing as well as in treatment options.
Prior to the lockdown, many healthcare facilities were on the fence about whether to provide virtual physician care visits. During the lockdown, staff and patients demanded safer ways to consult with their doctors, boosting acceptance of virtual healthcare appointments. Virtual doctor visits provide a way to offer healthcare access while removing some risk of contagion.
Today there is a growing demand to address social issues, like the opioid crisis and social determinants of comprehensive healthcare treatment. Social trends impact healthcare more as the disparity become worse. The COVID lockdown of 2020 worsened the economic and social situation especially of those in poverty. This led to increased opioid and substance use disorder where people were already vulnerable.
Meanwhile, a burgeoning awareness of disparity in healthcare availability for poor and ethnic patients emerged. The pandemic was an equal threat to every neighborhood. That meant as a country, we needed to find a way to open treatment options to people of all social layers. As a result, healthcare began to be seen as a basic human need. The federal government felt it was critical to step up to offer reimbursement to healthcare facilities treating COVID related illnesses. It made COVID treatment available to individuals who couldn’t afford to cover the medical treatment they needed.
During the pandemic lockdown the monthly overdose rate spiked 35% in one month. According to a report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, drug use and overdose are higher for those in extreme duress and poverty. Additionally, supply chain disruption spurred introduction of unknown new substance use that addicts raising the overdose rate.
When people are not present, they cannot intervene and help save lives. Social distancing, along with the fear surrounding a healthcare crisis and other emotional factors led to more compulsive types of unhealthy behaviors including substance abuse.
COVID-19 will exacerbate housing, food, transportation, job and healthcare insecurities and minority and immigrant communities are disproportionately affected. A critical component of upward mobility continues to be healthcare availability to all. Social conversations have begun to include healthcare when discussing racial and social equality, but it has yet to be resolved. As healthcare facilities face ever increasing physician and nursing shortages, they turn to automation and efficiency. Where can additional healthcare availability figure into this model?
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