Hotlines for  Covid-19 UAE
The UAE healthcare system picked up a lot of learning on the run, as it pulled out all strategies to keep the outbreak in check. But the process of healing for the industry players will take time. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

The UAE healthcare sector is adopting to the post-COVID-19 environment - but we are still licking our wounds. The COVID-19 exposed the inadequacies of our healthcare systems and brought even the most developed countries to their knees.

Though we can boast of excellence, our preparedness to meet the overwhelming requirements to handle a pandemic is still a work in progress. There is a lot of learning. The healthcare sector thus needs a complete structural overhauling.

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The focus post-COVID would be more to have a conscious approach towards cutting down our direct costs, mainly through optimizing efficiency levels of our human resources, overheads, material costs, and stricter controls on cashflows. All without compromising on the quality and protecting the safety of our patients and staff.

Investments towards maintaining quality and hygiene will will fall in as a significant piece in the profit and loss statement. Having a robust telehealth facility and home care will also be our priority.

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There are improvements happening in terms of payment by insurance companies and the speed of the payments. With a colossal decline in outpatients to hospitals and clinics, the fortunate few that were unscathed during the pandemic are the insurance companies. The business is opening up entirely, and the momentum is picking up steadily. Insurance is supporting us with quick approvals and clearing the backlog.

With diagnosis-related group payment getting implemented in the next couple of months, substantial job cuts across various industries and the opting of lower premium packages for employees, we will have to wait and watch the impact on the insurance system.

Canadian Specialist Hospital is ready 100 per cent post-COVID-19... as it has been before the pandemic. Most of the elective procedures deferred during the peak of the pandemic are coming back. Once the international arrivals open up, we will expect our medical tourists back.

More learning to do

The other learning is that it is essential we don’t stick on to just private health, but also learn to deal with public health. The crisis has had a significant impact on the healthcare revenue cycle, exposed patients to financial perils as layoffs became widespread, and add in the stigma of visiting a hospital due to safety factors. It has resulted in substantial financial strain across sectors.

The government should help the bleeding healthcare industry with waivers and reduce interest rates to cope with the current situation. It is essential to have strict controls on cashflow and operational costs.

We must have lean management and improve efficiency levels. We have to wait to see how the market is going to evolve and sustain healthcare brands.

- Gopinath S. is Chief Strategic Officer at Canadian Specialist Hospital.