Healthcare Trends in Review: “An Epidemic of Epidemics”

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

This blog post is part of our Ten Healthcare Trends Series, presented annually since 2012 by Robin Rose, VP, Healthcare Resources Group. 

Since HealthStream began sharing its Top Healthcare Trends reports back in 2012, healthcare professionals likely find themselves in a very different place today than they imagined nearly a decade ago. As a follow-up to our tenth annual special webinar, Top Trends: How Healthcare Moves Forward in 2021, we’re taking a look back at several megatrends that have impacted the direction of healthcare worldwide. 

MAJOR TREND ONE: Responding to The Epidemic of Epidemics 

Over the past decade, nearly every Ten Trends webinar has included discussion surrounding the trend that we are at high risk from infectious diseases. A physician from Johns Hopkins has been warning that we are seeing an “epidemic of epidemics.”  

Nearly every year since 2011, the U.S. has experienced a major infectious disease threat. Without minimizing their short- and long-term impacts, healthcare has been able to rise to the unique set of challenges presented by each.

Unfortunately, this trend continues with COVID-19. And we are likely to experience even more epidemics or pandemics in the future. Things like air travel and interconnected global economies make epidemics’ spread more likely and harder to control. 

We have presented numerous examples in the Trends presentations over the years that show that we are not planning on a large enough scale for the new environment we live in. For example, the Ebola scare in a single Texas hospital in 2014 showed us that hospitals were unprepared to identify and treat infectious disease.  

At the time, the healthcare industry’s solution was to increase training for hospital personnel and designate a limited number of healthcare organizations to specialize in this care. We never thought of the need to treat an infectious disease such as COVID-19 in every hospital in the country. 

We presented an example of a health system that had to deal with a massive hurricane in Houston.  A TeamHealth senior executive who’d managed the ERs in the Houston area said hospitals had trained for a hurricane but never for a hurricane accompanied by a major 2-week flooding event.  At the same time, they were providing care for an influx of patients, the hospitals needed to house and feed hundreds of healthcare workers (and even some of their pets) for several weeks to meet the demand for care. The head of Emergency Services at Sunrise Medical Center in Las Vegas said they were overwhelmed by the mass casualty shooting several years ago in Las Vegas. He said they had prepared for scenarios where they had to treat 50 trauma patients at one time, but never 200.  

The main takeaway is that we are more at risk than we think, and we are not doing enough to prepare. The lack of ventilators and PPE throughout this year is a prime example. 

2021 will present its own take on the Epidemic of Epidemics trend. As the COVID pandemic enters year two, acute and non-acute facilities alike will be called upon to up-level their approaches to patient care, workforce development, and more. 

Download the free webinar recording, Ten Trends: How Healthcare Moves Forward in 2021

Now in its tenth year, our Ten Trends webinar series is an annual favorite of healthcare leaders nationwide. Watch and listen for a fresh, informed perspective on ten trends that will have significant impacts on healthcare in the coming year.  Download the recording of this engaging live webinar and Q&A session.