As the world continues to become more interconnected, pandemics are becoming more widespread. And while we’ve seen some significant outbreaks over the past decade or so (think swine flu and Ebola), there’s still plenty of room for new ones. The good news: Health care providers are getting better at preventing, detecting, and treating these diseases before they spread too far.
We learned a lot from the COVID-19 pandemic, but there is still room for improvement. Here are a few of the ways healthcare professionals are preparing for the next pandemic.
Fund Vaccine Research and Development
In order to best prepare for the next pandemic, healthcare providers must increase funding for vaccine research and development. Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent pandemics and protect public health, but they can be expensive to develop. This makes early investment in their development critical—especially when an outbreak is underway.
Molecular vaccines are particularly promising because they can be developed quickly and efficiently using mRNA technology. The U.S government has invested millions of dollars into mRNA vaccine research, looking at ways these products can be used against pathogens like Ebola or Zika virus that have no current vaccine available (as of 2018). However, this type of treatment is still in its early stages: there needs to be more testing done before it hits the market successfully
Utilize Technology to Monitor the Outbreak
Technology is an important tool in the fight against disease, and healthcare providers are using it to their advantage. Artificial technology can be used to monitor the spread of diseases and track the effectiveness of public policies such as lockdowns. It’s also essential for sorting through large amounts of data, which will help us better understand these diseases and prepare for future outbreaks. AI was particularly essential when it came to isolating specific proteins and searching through large quantities of DNA to develop our mRNA vaccines. Technology like this will continue to be integral in the fight against disease.
Improve the Supply Chain and Distribution
When it comes to preparing for pandemic outbreaks, the supply chain is critical. It’s not just about getting vaccines, PPE, and other materials where they need to go; it’s also about getting them there fast.
The supply chain needs to be able to function efficiently even in crisis situations—and when you’re dealing with millions of panicked people scrambling for basic necessities like food and water on top of everything else, things can get pretty chaotic very quickly.
The COVID-19 outbreak highlighted this need as our supply chain struggled under increased pressure and delayed shipments were common throughout the summer months. Researchers and healthcare professionals depend on companies like Avantor as a reliable lab equipment supplier who could “help streamline the laboratory management process.” Efficient laboratories with reliable and quick distribution networks are essential for meeting the need of the next pandemic.
Turn to Telehealth and Virtual Meetings
Telehealth is a way to provide healthcare without the need for a physical visit. It may be used to provide remote consultations, such as with your doctor or specialist via phone or video interface. Many patients are opting for virtual visits rather than going into the office since the pandemic began.
Telehealth has become essential for minimizing the spread of disease. Today, many insurance policies offer telehealth options as part of their coverage packages, which means you’ll never be too far from expert medical help no matter where you are located physically.
The healthcare industry has taken great strides in preparing for the next pandemic. The World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other organizations have taken measures to ensure that healthcare providers are prepared. They have also funded research into vaccines and other treatments so that we can develop better strategies against future outbreaks. With telehealth and virtual meetings becoming more popular, it’s possible that patients will be able to get treatment from their own homes instead of having to travel long distances or wait in lines at hospitals when an outbreak occurs nearby.