According to a survey in 2020, COVID-19 has caused an immense psychological burden on the global population, especially among healthcare professionals who have been facing high infection risks and increased workload. But if we think that the worst is behind us, we are far away from reality!
Mental health includes psychological, emotional & social well-being that means it substantially affects how we think, feel, and act. The unprecedented impact of the COVID pandemic on health systems had been significantly evident as compared to the mental health & well-being of healthcare professionals. This might have led to redefining the healthcare systems, but somehow the mental health challenges faced by healthcare workers were left unaddressed!
According to a study conducted in 2021 by the frontiers, several factors were responsible for aggravating stress in the healthcare fraternity and further leading to difficulties in caregiving during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Let’s see what were these factors and how healthTech solutions might have assisted in resolving the issues emerging from the pandemic.
- High Workload
The Indian healthcare system struggles with a shortage of medically trained professionals in private as well as public healthcare units. During the COVID pandemic, the existing healthcare professionals in the country were overworked (usually up to 16–17 hour shifts per day) and under tremendous physical & psychological stress. Moreso, even the record-keeping and survey departments faced burnouts while processing the enormous data with conventional methods.
Solution: An ideal healthcare management software could have easily reduced the workload to manageable levels by automating the obvious operations. Furthermore, a digital patient record & survey module may have also assisted the Asha workers in feeding the system from the ground-root level instead of penning down the patient details and their vital stats during their house-to-house visits and then updating it into a central system at the end of the day.
Digital healthcare management has definitely made patient management quicker and less effective for ground-level healthcare workers.
- Lack of PPE
Healthcare professionals in rural and remote locations of India pointed out that PPE supplied by their hospitals were either inadequate or of low quality. Although the on-paper estimates suggest that every hospital has been provided with the required numbers of PPEs, however, the facts on the ground were different. Moreover, it was also seen that the nurses were merely provided with PPEs as doctors were the primary focus and the need for an adequate supply of PPEs for nurses was relatively ignored.
Solution: This could have been easily resolved with a simple centralized inventory management system on mobiles to assist in the optimal utilization of the inventory.
- Low Social Acceptance
The social stigma is still one of the persistent challenges for healthcare professionals in the COVID-19 pandemic. Wherein, the healthcare workers were perceived as the carriers of the infection due to their constant interaction with infected COVID-19 patients. Even the families of the healthcare professionals were forced to limit their interaction with neighbors; this has created stressful scenarios within their social communities.
The consequence of this social construct has inhibited patient monitoring as patients would rather prefer to skip the tests than grind under the stigma. However, a digital healthcare system would have given a better opportunity for the patients and the medical professionals to interact in a safe and social anxiety-free zone. Also, with such systems, the infected can be treated effectively at the comfort of their house; in the early stage.
- Mental health Issues
Healthcare givers serve in an atmosphere where the fear of infection prevails at its largest and despite their training to think & act steadily in any medical emergency. Furthermore, medical practitioners have had to cope with several psychological challenges, including depression, anxiety and insomnia. This escalated into high chances of infection to their family members adding up to further mental stress.
During the pandemic, everyone has lost someone but witnessing death on a daily basis would have had a devastating impact on care providers’ psychological health which may have been left untreated.
Solution: Mental health has taken a critical toll over the medical fraternity and It’s time that the hospital administration takes initiatives toward understanding the challenges to overcome the well-being of care professionals while proposing more evidence-based solutions and checking their effectiveness promptly. Also, this must include timely surveys that promptly measure the physical, emotional and mental exhaustion of the medical professionals.
- Lack of coordination and direction
COVID outbreak came with a few red flags and has affected global health in no time! This has created a panic state among people. Along with constantly changing guidelines from WHO and government agencies, doctors remained uncertain about the line of treatment. This caused heavy workload on the diagnostic labs.
It is also estimated that undefined safety protocols during the COVID first wave have forced COVID positive patients to visit medical facilities to receive standard medical consultation, which compromised COVID-negative patients as well as the medical workers’ health.
Solution: The worst possible scenario witnessed was lack of coordination between different departments. This could have been easily resolved with a well-established data-interoperable platform, which could have assisted healthcare stakeholders for quick interactions on a single platform while simultaneously updating the medical records.
Does stress among doctors have consequences for their patient care?
Medical professionals try to provide the best optimum care for their patients, however, burnout due to work-related stress has potentially reduced patient care with low patient engagement and satisfaction.
Deteriorating mental health in medical professionals could be the next pandemic if left untreated, however, a systematic approach to unburden care professionals from the long-lasting paperwork duties and getting rid of age-old conventional healthcare management practices can go above and beyond.