January 28, 2021

UW Health leaders reflect on how COVID-19 changed healthcare

Madison, Wis. — As we approach a year of caring for COVID-19 patients at UW Health amid an ongoing flurry of vaccine news, leaders at UW Health are reflecting on how this pandemic has permanently changed many aspects of healthcare.

COVID-19 has changed the way we provide care. In a few short weeks, we saw a decade worth of progress on virtual care and telehealth at UW Health, a trend that continues throughout the healthcare industry. Virtual appointments will continue to be more accessible and more common moving forward.

It has altered how we work, and especially where we work. Starting in the spring of 2020, we learned which jobs could be performed remotely. Every industry, including healthcare, learned how much their workforce was capable of accomplishing from home. UW Health will always provide remarkable, in-person care for our patients, but virtual meetings and work will continue to offer flexibility to our patients and workforce for years to come.

COVID-19 spurred changes in how we approach infection control and other safety measures. It catalyzed a shift to gather patients with respiratory symptoms in one place to better manage their needs and the risks those illnesses could pose to others. UW Health altered ventilation to create safer airflow. We have also created countless protocols for PPE that will be evaluated not just for infectious disease but patients with compromised immune systems.

Finally, the pandemic required healthcare organizations to use their voice and position within their communities to promote preventive health and public health. Health systems are collaborating more with each other, with local public health departments, and most importantly with community organizations to foster better collaboration and transparency.