The sudden emergence and spread of Corona Virus (a.k.a Covid -19) as a pandemic has taken the humanity by a storm of uncertainties and has exposed the susceptibility of humans to unknown infections. The famous author, Mr. Nassim Nicholas Taleb dubbed the highly improbable and unpredictable events as ‘Black Swan’ 1. Covid -19 is one such ‘Black Swan’ that is sweeping across the global arena and affecting various sectors like banking, travel, agriculture, education, business, healthcare and many more in its wake. It has affected the global economy, destroyed livelihoods and taken uncountable lives. Similar events in the past such as cholera epidemic in London, Spanish flu, Swine flu have made governments, and healthcare providers realize the importance of public health system strengthening. But like any other unpredictable events, one learns in retrospect and foresees plenitude of opportunities for growth and development post- event. The current scenario of Covid-19 pandemic is obviously no different.
The Indian Government has been taking immense preventive and care measures in a war- footing scale in the current struggle against Covid-19. Still there is a long way to go. There is a lack of healthcare service delivery facilities like availability of personal protection equipments (PPEs), testing kits, and skilled manpower to manage suspected and confirmed cases of Covid optimally. Also the huge population of the country, co-existing burden of non-communicable diseases and other diseases, large volumes of displaced migrant population, violations of social distancing measures are pushing the health system to stretch itself beyond its boundaries.
The current public health crisis tagged ‘information intensive’ by WHO has brought to limelight the potential the use of technology through artificial intelligence, teleworking, web-based community building, virtually delivered services, 3D printing, internet of things, mobile computing, in-silico drug designing, text mining, and image analysis from surveillance, to diagnosis, testing, treatment and cure. This has also brought to forefront the necessity of maintaining electronic medical /health records (EMR/EHR) for tracking health details of every individual. They can further help the doctors and specialists to provide telehealth and maintain social distancing unless further treatment is required. There is a growing use of information technology (IT) in the form of apps to aid in prediction, tracking, counselling, risk assessment, diagnosis and cure both by private and public sector in the country. Use of drones for remote monitoring, robots for sanitation and delivery of drugs, apps for proactively reaching out and informing risks (ArogyaSetu), contact tracing (Sahayog), providing e-passes (CG Covid 19 e-pass) are few initiatives using technology. More and more novel ways of using technology to combat the epidemics and get maximum potential are increasingly being tried and tested every day.
All these have opened the doors to various career opportunities in healthcare / health information technology (Health IT) waiting to be seized post Covid 19. Trained and skilled manpower will be needed to gather requirements and develop specifications to design suitable applications, test and implement them. In addition to good computer handling skills, knowledge of healthcare workflow process, market research capabilities, health data analysis, real time data acquisition, high resolution image analysis, non-pharmaceutical interventions, understanding social networks and human behaviour through technology, modelling are some of the hot spot skill sets to be focussed upon. Health IT professionals with good team work and leadership skills, capable of communicating both with the patients and providers, technically equipped to handle EMR/ EHR and other healthcare software are much needed. The 1.5 lakh Health and Wellness Centres established under National Health Policy (2017)2 is expected to use technology for providing comprehensive health care. Post Covid-19 these centres may very well operate as nodes for infectious disease surveillance, prevention and health promotion. Though technology had been penetrating the Indian healthcare sector in a slow pace last few years the current public health crisis has brought to attention the role of digital technologies as lifeline of healthcare industry. There will be no dearth of opportunities for individuals in healthcare information technology domain due to the fast growing adoption of digital technologies.
Healthcare technology, a game changer in itself, needs human brains and hands for best results. Healthcare is a sensitive field, requiring personal approach and empathy towards the distressed population at every step. Post pandemic, there is going to be a review of standard operating procedures (SOPs) in every health care setting, be it hospital or community, leading to improvisation of patient interaction, in all probabilities. However this also directly implies that there is going be a big demand of trained healthcare professionals. The industry will be looking to hire more and more trained professionals who under the industry, understand management principles yet have a clear understanding of the sensitive nature of the industry. The healthcare is also diversifying in more specific verticals like specialized in Geriatric Care Centres, Healthcare services at Home, Specific Mother and Child Hospitals, Standalone Medical Oncology and Dialysis centres. In order to meet the ever growing needs of the country, every health care unit, private or public, for profit or charitable, general or specialized hospitals will be accorded importance. These will eventually put increased demand of Hospital and Healthcare Management professionals and career opportunities are bound to increase manifolds.
COVID-19 has brought tremendous focus to the importance of strengthening public health systems which had always been perceived as less demanding compared to to clinical systems based on curative disciplines. There is a recognition world over about disease prevention and health promotion, in addition to patient management through treatment. Countries, including developed countries are facing huge shortfalls of public health human resource and deficiencies in health infrastructure. If we keep aside the difficulties faced by the global populace unleashed by COVID-19, one has to acknowledge that the future times are going to open a plethora of opportunities for professionals in public health sector. In addition to direct support to clinicians providing patient care, public health opportunities will emerge in areas of health promotion, levels of disease prevention, rehabilitation, teaching, training and research, monitoring & evaluation, coordination and convergence. Many of these activities will focus on mobilization at community level along with coordination with local governments and will involve a lot of grass root level workers and volunteers at the sub district level. Community engagement activities will use different tools at the group and individual level for which the grass root workers will need guidance, training and supportive supervision by trained health managers. Public health teaching is going to emerge as a niche area with many terms of epidemiology such as incubation period, period of infectivity, subclinical cases, and asymptomatic carriers etc., which earlier were deliberated by a select set, becoming popular subjects of discussion. The coming weeks, months and perhaps years, will see courses and trainings in public health rolled out to interested candidates among masses and serious pursuers, which would certainly call in qualified public health personnel.
COVID-19 has generated an explosion of research activities globally, ranging from desk research to randomized controlled trials. The launch of an effective vaccine will go through exhaustive randomized controlled trials and other processes across countries which are also opportunities for public health personnel with research background and interest. The evolving situation is expected to be a long haul and will continue to be a fertile ground for observational and experimental research related to epidemiology, behavioural sciences, demography and other related disciplines. Therefore, public health researchers, stand by for a lot of opportunities.
COVID-19 can by no means be owned by the health sector and solved by medical and health related approaches alone. The impact is multi-disciplinary and cuts across sectors; the economic impact is perhaps the most discussed. There is a flow of news and reports predicting the negative impact of Covid -19 on employment and labour3,4. Though there are vast misinformation, challenges, negative reports, job uncertainties are in the spotlight, simultaneously various alternatives, working patterns are being developed and tested. The opportunities listed so far are by no means exhaustive whether it is hospital, public health or in health IT arena. A multi sectoral approach is the need of the hour which will automatically lead to coordination and convergence with multiple departments; the contributors to this response will be healthcare management professionals who have not only technical skills but also leadership skills with out of the box, innovative thinking.
At International Institute of Health Management Research, Delhi, we are committed to train and transform aspirants into highly skilled healthcare managers, ready to take up the challenges of bringing a dramatic change to how healthcare is delivered. Our MBA equivalent Postgraduate Programme in Hospital and Health Management (PGDHM) with specializations in Health Management, Hospital Management, and Healthcare Information Technology is focussed at developing skilled managers with proficiency in strategizing and implementing management techniques, diagnosing and solving problems, developing consultancy and entrepreneurship skills who can contribute to provide value care in a healthcare organization be it a hospital, public health organization, NGO, biotech , pharmaceutical or a software firm.
1. Taleb, N. N. (2007). The black swan: The impact of the highly improbable (Vol. 2). Random house.
2. Government of India. National Health Policy 2017. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Nirman Bhawan, New Delhi, 2017. p. 1–32. Lastly accessed on 21 April 2020 at https://www.nhp.gov.in/nhpfiles/national_health_policy_2017.pdf .
3. International Labour Organization. ILO Statistics. COVID-19 impact on the collection of labour market statistic. Lastly accessed on 21 April 2020 at https://ilostat.ilo.org/topics/covid-19/covid-19-impact-on-labour-market-statistics/.
4. Potential impact of Covid-19 on Indian economy. KPMG India, April 2020. Lastly accessed on 21 April 2020 at https://home.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/in/pdf/2020/04/potential-impact-of-covid-19-on-the-Indian-economy.pdf .
Author: Dr. Anandhi Ramachandran – Associate Professor
Author: Dr. Preetha G.S – Associate Professor
Author: Ms. Nikita Sabbarwal – Associate Professor