Medical Professionals Urged to Prepare Physically, Mentally for Potential COVID-19 Resurgence
To date, there have been nearly 5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 stemming from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, with more than 326,000 deaths. The United States currently has the highest number of confirmed cases, followed by Russia and Brazil. Russian officials have upheld strict shelter-in-place guidelines, and certain regions have banned any form of outdoor activity, including walks, until the number of new daily cases drops to the “tens or hundreds”.
As some states in the U.S. have begun the process of reopening certain establishments, it is more important than ever to consider the potential ramifications of loosening restrictions or ending shelter-in-place orders. The director of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, has cautioned the American public and governing officials against lifting restrictions too early, as the gradual reopening of economies could cause a resurgence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and coincide with the start of flu season in the late fall.
According to Redfield, the impact of simultaneous flu epidemics would stress the American healthcare system to an incalculable degree. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has also publicly stated that a COVID-19 resurgence is inevitable.
In order to prevent the number of new COVID-19 cases from rising, it is imperative that the medical community continues to practice methods of reducing virus transmission. One such social distancing effort comes in the form of remote healthcare delivery through telemedicine. Vohra Wound Physicians, the leader in post-acute wound care, has been treating patients in remote locations via telemedicine since 2013, and recently launched Telemedicine Wound Care at Home to transition home health patient care to an online modality. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we must ask ourselves how we can continue to best prepare medical professionals for the possibility of a resurgence.
The psychological toll of battling COVID-19 from the front lines
Several recent publications have examined the psychological effect of COVID-19 on hospital and treatment facility workers, both medical and non-medical. One study conducted in Singapore found that medical healthcare workers actually experience less psychological distress from COVID-19 as compared to nonmedical healthcare workers, such as allied health professionals, administrators, clerical staff, and maintenance staff. The study concluded this is possibly due to increased access to information about the pandemic or increased access to psychological support.
However, the CDC has acknowledged the potential—and likelihood—for first responders and healthcare professionals to develop secondary traumatic stress, or stress reactions and symptoms resulting from exposure to another individual’s traumatic experiences.
Should a resurgence of cases occur in the coming months, healthcare workers on the front line of COVID-19 screenings and treatment may experience a greater incidence or severity of negative psychological symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The CDC recommends several strategies to mitigate secondary traumatic stress reactions, such as: giving yourself appropriate time to decompress during your non-working hours, creating and enacting personal self-care activities, taking media breaks (specifically in regards to COVID-19 news), reaching out to your close personal network for social support, and checking in with yourself regarding feelings associated with secondary traumatic stress, such as fear, guilt, and physical or mental fatigue.
COVID-19 and the seasonal flu
Annually, the seasonal flu infects about 3-11% of the U.S. population. As economies begin to reopen, frontline healthcare workers may be treating both seasonal flu and COVID-19 patients, which will increase the already large strain on hospital systems and medical supply (specifically PPE) manufacturers. Officials state that a winter resurgence of COVID-19 combined with a seasonal flu surge may have catastrophic effects on the already strained healthcare system.
The CDC has recommended continuing social distancing practices, increasing testing, and improving viral contact tracing methods. In addition, the director of the CDC recommends that every American receive a seasonal flu vaccine in order to reduce the risk of contracting seasonal influenza, thus lessening the existing burden on the healthcare system.
Improving telemedicine and preparing healthcare workers for a COVID-19 resurgence
Medical professionals should anticipate a COVID-19 resurgence in the late summer and fall months. Telemedicine platforms, such as the Vohra at Home platform, have been integral in reducing person-to-person exposure between patients and healthcare providers. Telemedicine appointments have allowed patients to receive care in a timely manner, while challenging healthcare professionals to provide healthcare comparable to the care they would deliver at bedside.
As the medical community collectively prepares for a potential COVID-19 resurgence, telemedicine remains an integral aspect in reducing the spread of the virus, a reality many more Americans can take advantage of thanks to Medicare’s move to increase coverage of telehealth visits.
Healthcare and COVID-19: A unique opportunity for physicians
The COVID-19 pandemic has given many physicians the opportunity to re-evaluate their practices and methods of healthcare delivery. Many physicians are coming to the conclusion that telemedicine and remote healthcare should exist at least as a component of their practice in the post-COVID-19 new normal. Vohra Wound Care serves as an example of an extensive medical group that is setting the pace with respect to the changing standards of care, and thus offers its physicians the opportunity to transform their personal and professional lifestyles. To learn more about a career with Vohra and our open opportunities, click here.