Posted on Dec 23, 2021, 1 p.m.
The past two years have seen significant stress placed on the U.S. healthcare system. Unprepared for a global pandemic, healthcare facilities across the country were pushed to their limits fighting COVID-19 in addition to all other health concerns patients experience. Had healthcare providers known of the imminent emergence of the novel coronavirus before 2019, the system might have been able to prepare, and the crisis might not have become as severe as it is.
True foresight is impossible, but healthcare providers can decipher some upcoming events using current trends. Already, public health experts and disease specialists have some conception of the major health concerns of the near future, and learning more about these likely developments gives providers some power to protect themselves and their patients from upcoming threats. In 2022, the U.S. healthcare industry is likely to experience major health concerns such as these:
The first evidence of SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus, appeared in November 2019, and more than two years later, the virus continues to pose a significant health threat. Despite more than four vaccines designed to prevent transmission, COVID-19 will likely continue to spread through 2022 and on. Vaccine hesitancy is expanding due to side effects and less than stellar effectiveness, challenging the efficacy of the vaccine depending on which “news” source you use. Mutations are to be expected with any virus, as just like with the flu having many strains, viruses are continually changing, and coronaviruses are no exception to this fact.
Some health experts are optimistic about the pandemic, suggesting that the virus could wane over the coming months. Still, coronaviruses are likely to remain in various strains as coronaviruses have been known since the mid-60s according to the CDC. Even so, the healthcare industry should continue devoting resources toward identifying drugs to fight the virus.
The 1918 influenza pandemic was the first known catastrophic flu event, but it is possible that the influenza virus has wrought untold devastation in epidemics throughout human history. Today, vaccination was designed with hopes to help curb the spread of influenza, but disease experts are consistently concerned about the potential development of a new and overwhelming form of the virus from avian or swine sources. As viruses are continuously changing today we have several forms of influenza that are divided into subtypes, additionally, there are many other viruses that can result in influenza-like illnesses that can spread during flu season.
Unfortunately, the rates of flu transmission are increasing in the U.S., especially in areas with high rates of antibiotic resistance, which is largely due to the overuse of antibiotics leading to the viruses mutating to develop the ability to defeat the drugs and vaccines that were designed to defeat them. As the influenza virus is constantly changing, scientists try to identify which strains they believe will cause the most harm, these recommendations are what is used to create a new vaccine every year.
Although the healthcare system can typically tolerate seasonal spikes in flu cases, the continuing coronavirus crisis could make managing patients with flu more difficult. Healthcare administrators might consider taking a course in healthcare management to gain the knowledge and skill necessary to prepare for a drastic change in the healthcare landscape. Encouraging patients to become more preventive by practicing good health habits and educating them on ways to prevent flu’s spread with good hygiene habits are also useful strategies for preventing another pandemic.
Humans depend on their environment for clean air and water, food cultivation, and comfortable shelter. Yet, as the climate changes due to human activity, access to air, water, food, and shelter will begin to decrease. Already, the climate crisis claims over 150,000 deaths every year, and the World Health Organization estimates that figure could increase to over 400,000 deaths per year by 2050.
Climate change is more likely to affect the health of populations with low socioeconomic status, especially where access to healthcare is sparse. Unfortunately, these populations are already at risk for limited access to healthcare. Thus, health systems need to find solutions for healthcare deserts that ensure poor and rural populations have reliable access to healthcare providers and facilities. Additionally, healthcare organizations can prepare for common diseases resulting from climate change, including climate-sensitive infectious diseases like:
- dengue fever
- heat stress
Healthcare organizations should do what they can to reduce their environmental impact. This might involve transitioning to reusable supplies and energy-friendly sterilization equipment or encouraging telehealth visits for more patients.
Considering the significance of a functioning healthcare system, healthcare professionals need to do what they can to anticipate upcoming threats and prepare their organizations for success. Then, providers and patients can see more positive outcomes in the future.
This article was written by Nancy R Fernandez, blogger and health advocate.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine.
Content may be edited for style and length.
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