How COVID-19 Has Changed Medical Research in Global Health

COVID-19 is a virus that devastated the healthcare systems around the globe. The main reason for this devastation was the speed of the spreading. Because it was spreading so fast, hospitals weren’t able to accommodate so many patients.

We needed to figure out a better approach to dealing with the pandemic. So, this is where most of the people on Earth stood together by being apart. We were in lockdown, but our scientists and governments collaborated more on finding the right solution.

What Was the COVID-19 Impact on Research Priorities?

One of the major impacts of the pandemic was the speed of research. Because of the urgency and the need for a quick response, research was focused on the COVID-19 virus and therapy and vaccine development for it.

The development of vaccines was heavily prioritized, but this does not imply that it is not being done presently. Epidemiology and therapeutic regimens continue to see some initiatives. However, research remains a priority with ongoing trials on many things you can participate in (link to site).

This required a lot of funding and resources, so governments, private sectors, and international organizations collaborated and helped out the research process. We’ve proven that we can adapt in no time, and respond to great threats effectively and swiftly.

Accelerated Vaccine Development and Faster Approval

During the pandemic, several vaccines were developed and distributed across the globe. So, the pandemic was the reason vaccines got fast approvals and became available quickly, but it was based on research. Here are some processes and technology the pandemic has yielded:

  • Operation Warp Speed and Global Initiatives: Organizations, private sectors, and other entities including governments started programs and projects to develop vaccines faster, this shortened the timelines drastically.
  • mRNA technological advances: Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna were the first companies to deploy mRNA vaccines, which showed the world that rapid vaccine development is possible.
  • EUAs: Emergency Use Authorizations were implemented by regulatory agencies. This secured a faster route to making something happen when it comes to public emergencies.

What Were Clinical Trial Advances Since COVID-19?

Apart from research, vaccine development, and other relevant spheres in healthcare, the COVID-19 pandemic also made huge advances in the way clinical trials were done. It modernized the approach, and helped speed up the process:

  • Fast initiation and scaling: Any emergency should warrant a swift trial launch and faster scaling rates. COVID-19 showed us that this can happen, trials were started as soon as possible, and they were conducted on a global scale.
  • Adaptive trial design: Any interim results could modify the current trials and help speed up the process. This made the assessment of potential therapy methods much faster.
  • Enhanced collaboration: We noticed that the partnerships between the industry, research facilities, academia, governments, etc. improved over the course of the pandemic and this made the research better and faster.
  • Decentralized methods: Instead of on-the-spot monitoring, we developed and adopted remote monitoring and other digital tools to make clinical trials more accessible and efficient.

How Did COVID-19 Make Collaboration Better?

The pandemic not only accelerated research and development, but it also made room for innovation in the way data was shared and how collaboration should work. The effort to stop the pandemic lead to open data platforms and repositories, real-time data sharing, and other things.

Researchers and a lot of organizations use open data platforms to exchange important information quickly. Because of this type of open communication, they made fast analyses and breakthroughs proving that this is a good approach.

Because of the urgency, real-time sharing was necessary. Governments, health authorities, and researchers implemented real-time data mechanisms to track the spreading of the pandemic and stay up-to-date with everything so that they can attempt a timely intervention.

There was the COVAX initiative and the ACT Accelerator that pooled resources and gathered expertise from all sorts of government and non-government organizations. They even had access to the private sector to make sure that vaccines were equally distributed worldwide.

That’s how effective COVID-19 made collaboration and data sharing. Although it was a tragedy worldwide, it improved the way we communicate through remote channels and granted us faster access to different spheres of knowledge in the health sector.

How Did COVID-19 Impact Technology and Remote Healthcare

We know that you’ve seen those job ads where the employer specifies that the workplace is remote, so you get to work from home. Well, apart from COVID-19 proving that it’s possible to work from home unsupervised and be productive, it also proved something else:

  • Remote healthcare: We were closed and distanced socially, and there were many lockdowns in place in almost every country. This made remote healthcare essential. Patients can now receive care from home, and their health can be monitored remotely.
  • AI and machine learning health domain: We used machine learning and AI to improve the diagnoses and treatment. With AI it’s possible to detect COVID-19 earlier from medical imaging. It can also predict the outcome of the disease and help optimize the plan for treating it.
  • Digital health tools and apps: There are many digital health tools available now. There are mobile apps for healthcare and mental health support. Although there were a lot of fitness apps available before, they are now improved with additional features.

So, the tech industry has made a stunning impact during the pandemic because the development and advancement of these particular technologies have made our current healthcare systems much more tech-driven.

How COVID-19 Changed Health Systems and Policies

We’ve already discussed the major impacts on the health systems. You can notice now that it’s much easier to go to the doctor’s because you don’t have to wait so long, and you can do something from home as well.

It’s all about electronic health records. Because we have these available, and we can call our doctor from home, we can help alleviate the burden on the hospitals and clinics so that other people with more urgent conditions can use these services.

There’s a possibility to monitor your health from home and go to the doctor’s with some data already. This is a giant plus for the healthcare systems.

When it comes to policies, the change is noticeable in terms of how fast something can be approved like clinical trials or vaccine development. This can be a double-edged blade in some cases, but it’s related to emergency responses to pandemics, so we’re safe for now.

Final Thoughts

Although you noticed these changes happening in healthcare systems and policies, there are changes impacting other spheres of industry as well. COVID-19 was a trigger that started a chain of progress for all of humanity, and we’re experiencing this chain still.

Hopefully, there will be more changes in the sense that remote healthcare will become even more efficient, and there will be more changes in terms of equality in healthcare providing better access, and inclusivity.

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Last Updated on June 7, 2024 by Marie Benz MD FAAD