As modern health systems undergo rapid change, it is important that readiness is central to their planning and operation. Change may come through long-term trends, such as an increase in multidisciplinary approaches to care, or newly approved therapies that require modifications to care pathways. Change can also come as an unexpected shock, like the COVID-19 pandemic.
We cannot ignore the fact that the pandemic has placed significant pressure on health systems around the world, with many healthcare professionals and facilities being overwhelmed by increased demand for services. As a result, routine clinical care for conditions such as cancer has been delayed, which may impact public health for years to come. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of having a prepared and robust system that can keep day-to-day healthcare functions running. A truly ready health system should be able to respond to sudden shocks while continuing to deliver regular services.
The pandemic has brought into question the appropriateness of how we currently evaluate our health systems, and made it clear that we need to devise new fit-for-purpose assessment frameworks. To help us prepare for the ever-evolving health landscape, these frameworks need to encompass all of the interlinking facets of health systems.
We need to ensure that health systems do more than ‘bounce back’ from the pandemic – we need to improve these systems and address vulnerabilities that were present before COVID-19. We need to build a ready system that is sustainable, resilient and responsive to changing needs. That way, we can ensure people have access to the care they need.
Oriana Carswell, Project Officer at The Health Policy Partnership