The COVID-19 pandemic has stretched medicine to the limit and out of great necessity has come tremendous innovation. Some of the innovations include the widespread use of tele-medicine, and more allowance for pharmacists to vaccinate.
The COVID-19 pandemic may be the main public healthcare issue facing our nation, but just because there is a highly contagious virus impacting our nation does not mean that diabetes, cancer, heart disease other healthcare concerns have suddenly disappeared. There are other diseases besides the coronavirus and these people need to be treated.
This is where tele-medicine has been so valuable. Patients nervous about risking exposure to COVID-19 have been able to see their doctors from the convenience of their own homes thanks to tele-medicine. The technology for tele-medicine has existed for a long time but it has never been used in the U.S. on a widescale until the pandemic.
One of the main appeals of tele-medicine is how convenient it is. Physically going to a doctor’s office can take up a big portion of a person’s day depending on how far away patients live from their physicians. Tele-medicine eliminates that commute and eliminates time spent sitting in a waiting room.
But there are limitations to virtual doctor visits. A patient can’t get a vaccine virtually which is why innovations such as allowing pharmacists to vaccinate has been so important.
The development of the COVID-19 vaccine in such a short time is in and of itself a remarkable achievement, but the distribution of the vaccine has proven to be a difficult challenge. Utilizing pharmacists to vaccinate has helped to get the vaccine out quickly and efficiently and as importantly – safely.
About nine out of every 10 people live within five miles of community pharmacist, which makes pharmacies a great location to get a vaccine. The convenience factor is especially important to minorities. The vaccine hesitancy among minority communities is well-documented. According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, just 63% of black adults say they would likely get the COVID-19 vaccine while 70 percent of whites and 78 percent of Hispanics said they were likely to get the vaccine. The last thing we need to do is to make it harder for minorities to get vaccinated.
Science and technology have helped us navigate the COVID-19 crisis and it will be science and technology that will help us get through the next healthcare crisis and there will most certainly be another healthcare crisis in the not-too-distant future.
We would be well-served to look at the successful policies that have been so valuable during the COVID-19 pandemic and build on those successes. Tele-medicine works and allowing pharmacists to vaccinate has also worked.
We don’t know when the next healthcare crisis will occur, but we know it will occur. We need to be prepared, which is why the innovations of the current pandemic should be made permanent and should be expanded. Tele-medicine should become a regular part of our healthcare and pharmacists should be able to administer ALL vaccines – not just flu shots and COVID-19 vaccines.
Many of the innovations in healthcare came about because of the urgency of the situation we were facing, but now we have an opportunity to be prepared for the next crisis. I suggest we take advantage of that opportunity and double down on the innovations that have proved to be so valuable during the COVID-19 crisis.
Dr. Sawlani is a physician at Central Primary Care in Chicago, https://www.centralprimarycare.com/our-staff.