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How the pandemic is dismantling silos in healthcare 

COVID-19 is bringing down traditional barriers, comments NEOM executive Dr Maliha Hashmi - and that can only be a good thing.

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We are now well into the second half of the year, and it’s fair to say that the pandemic is delivering a powerful education unlike anything seen previously in our lifetimes. While the number of daily cases continues to rise, and the outbreak shows no sign of slowing down, there is already much speculation of how a post-Covid world might look.

While this remains anyone’s guess, there are clear trends emerging that are unlikely to go away, from the rise of flexible work to virtual schooling, telemedicine, and more.

Winston Churchill once said “Never waste a good crisis.” As an executive who has now shepherded many in a good way through a historic crisis, I experienced many learnings and witnessed many trends that further validated the strategy I have been working on with my team in creating a holistic integrated health wellbeing biotech ecosystem. 

From my perspective, one of the more pertinent and intriguing trends is the breaking down of traditional silos. The pandemic is succeeding in breaking down walls in healthcare, which might have otherwise taken years to happen. We are witnessing transformation at warp speed! 

Consider the first wall. Health(care) has always been perceived as a system existing within hospitals and clinics. Up until now, it has been very difficult to communicate the point that health(care) begins at home. With the advent of the pandemic, however, telemedicine was embraced by more individuals out of necessity, forcing governments, payers and regulators to act speedily.

With more persons undertaking virtual consultations, perceptions of where health(care) can and should take place have changed. Now there is an understanding that health(care) needn’t start and end in hospital - it can begin from the comfort of home.

This is precisely the system we are building at NEOM. We are seeking to merge silos, removing the perceived wall between home and hospital, believing that healthcare is holistic and that it should be provided from cradle to grave. Accordingly, this validates the strategy we are working on that removes this barrier. 

Second, the pandemic is rapidly eroding mental and physical health silos. Mental health has for too long been in the shadows, and most of the time not taken seriously enough. Many people experiencing lockdown fatigue and other Covid-related stress - including the healthcare professionals themselves - are reaching out for mental and emotional support services, again from the comfort of home. This is now emerging as a strong component of the healthcare system.

Third, there is a rise in people reaching out to life coaches and caregivers for advice. What is interesting is that through virtual collaboration platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams people have been able to connect to multiple audiences at the same time and obtain different perspectives all at once, rather than on separate occasions. Counsel has become multi-dimensional.

Fourth, due to the need of ongoing need to take precautionary measures to avoid another outbreak of this pandemic, various siloed pillars have merged such as public health, primary prevention with healthcare, another element solidifying our strategy of creating an integrated health (caring) system at NEOM.

Finally, we are seeing a change in leadership perceptions. There exists an unconscious bias that women leaders do not perform as effectively as their counterparts who, it is believed, exhibit traits that include straightforwardness and assertiveness. The pandemic is changing all that: the female leaders worldwide who have prioritised health over economy and demonstrated empathy have produced better outcomes. 

Do you agree with my observations that the pandemic is challenging traditional barriers and perceptions? Please share your thoughts by posting a comment, and I will publish a selection of these in an upcoming post with my personal thoughts. 
 

Dr. Maliha Hashmi is the Executive Director and the Deputy Sector Head Health and Wellbeing and Biotech at NEOM, where she also served as the Executive Director for all Strategic Partnerships. Dr Maliha Hashmi also serves as the Deputy Chair of the NEOM Covid-19 Leadership Taskforce. Dr. Hashmi also serves as a Leading Expert & Council on Health & Healthcare at the World Economic Forum. 

Recently, Dr. Maliha Hashmi, was selected and recognized as one of the top seven most talented emerging Female Health Leaders of the MENA region. Dr. Maliha has held Executive roles in various sectors and globally renowned organizations and is a well-known name in the region for health & wellbeing. 

Dr. Maliha Hashmi received her Doctorate and master’s degrees from Harvard and MIT. Dr. Maliha Hashmi is listed as one of the top 20 women in the Nation in the United States of America for her achievements making it into the Who’s Who in America List.

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