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Responding to COVID-19

Measures that healthcare providers must take today to be ready for the challenges of tomorrow.

Normality as we know it has come to a sudden halt due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with the globe facing a level of uncertainty not experienced since the outbreak of the Second World War. With more than 8 million cases and over 450,000 fatalities worldwide thus far, figures are expected to continue to rise as countries strive to ‘flatten the curve’. The repercussions are not yet known, the impacts speculative, but some economic forecasts suggest the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of 1929 may be upon us.

In recent times, we have seen significant health challenges that have posed a substantial threat to life as we know it – 2002 SARS outbreak (less than 10,000 cases globally, less than 1,000 deaths); 2009 Swine Flu outbreak (up to 1.4 billion cases, fatalities in the hundreds of thousands); 2012 MERS outbreak (more than 2500 confirmed cases, under 1,000 deaths).

Yet despite the previous difficulties of the 21st century, healthcare systems have proved resilient and nations always prevailed. Undeniably, the time has come to do so again – responding quickly to treat patients and ensuring the health and safety of all personnel is essential. At Boston Consulting Group (BCG), we are highlighting the main issues facing healthcare providers in the Middle East and the measures they must take:

Patient and caregiver confidence – patients are worried about the capacity of healthcare providers to cope with COVID-19, and caregivers are concerned about catching the disease and passing it on to family members.

Business continuity – there is a looming worry regarding supply chain disturbances and resource shortages in terms of workforce, medical supplies, and infrastructure.

Resiliency and sustainability – COVID-19 could continue to be around for a while as cases rise and future waves may occur, which impacts overall economic and business growth.

Healthcare providers across the region must do everything in their power to safeguard patient and caregiver confidence and manage the crisis – ensure staff safety and wellness, handle employees’ expectations, ensure clear and constant communication and mobilise staff to meet increased demand.

Following this, sustained surges in demand must be accommodated for – effectively rotating staff to alleviate workforce stress, securing the supply chain for necessary resources, ensuring equipment readiness and maintenance, making sure technology is safe, resilient, and scalable to increase automation; securing liquidity and managing cash carefully and strategically due to reduced revenues and increased expenditure.

Many healthcare providers in the region are already focused on the current crisis at hand to safeguard patient and caregiver confidence and ensure business continuity during the surge. However, it is critical to also shift mindsets to the future – to the post-COVID-19 era – and begin planning for it today so that they are resilient and sustainable, and come out of the crisis stronger.

Healthcare providers must prepare for the potential implications of worst-case COVID-19 scenarios and invest for the future to implement lasting change and learn from the crisis – instilling agility into operations to switch between COVID-19 and normal modes, implementing efficiency programmes to run lean, rolling out new business models such as telemedicine and remote monitoring, and investing in attractive growth opportunities.

Taking these actions today will ensure emergence from this crisis more resilient than ever before. Practically speaking, the formation of a COVID-19 Response Team (CRT) is recommended for public and private sector healthcare providers in the Middle East to ensure they can navigate the ongoing difficulties and lay the foundations for a sustainable future. The CRT will support decision-makers navigate the fluidity of the situation and its constant evolution.

Serving as an information hub and focusing on scenario planning, communication, and program management, the CRT will deliver tangible outputs to ensure organisational resiliency and future-readiness. The CRT and its crisis management toolkit will effectively manage the crisis with limited impact on patients, caregivers, and business continuity. The CRT will enable the navigation towards the future by developing scenarios along with detailed contingency plans for each – and these scenario planning capabilities will be embedded into the organisation to deal with uncertainty in the future.

The CRT coordinates with and supports existing organisational functions relating to specific tasks in the future plan, including business development and mergers and acquisitions, clinical operations, supply chain management, IT, HR, and finance. Healthcare providers can leverage this crisis into an opportunity to become more agile organisations that can adapt quickly to future needs and the changing environment, gain an advantage and leapfrog competition through a future-proof business model, boast a stronger in-house team prepared for future crises and uncertainties and benefit from sustainable long-term growth through investment.

The world has seen pandemics before. The latest is unfolding right now. And without question, more lay ahead in years to come. By investing in the capabilities of the future today, healthcare providers will thrive in the post-COVID-19 era – and be prepared for the crisis of tomorrow. 

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