Medipense in 2020, What A Year!
What a year! As we say goodbye to 2020, we take the time to reflect on a challenging, yet very innovative year. COVID-19 has affected everyone and in this brief article, we set the stage and discuss the past year, from our perspective. We also explore the effect it had on our operations.
The meaning of 2020 has changed; 2020 is no longer representative of perfect vision. It is the year of the pandemic which challenged our very way of life, health, and sanity. As of this writing, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports close to 80 million confirmed cases and 1,765,265 deaths, worldwide.
2020 saw the world unite against the virus, from small personal gestures to protect others, to international collaboration on research and innovation. The year ends with COVID-19 vaccines rolling out – an extraordinary feat.
In this year-end article, we will explore the effect of the pandemic on seniors, long-term care, science & politics and the economy. We will also discuss how these experiences have driven innovation at Medipense.
The Case for Seniors
According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at Ryerson University, by 24 November 2020, long-term care (LTC) and retirement homes reported 12% of the Canadian totals of COVID-19 cases and 75% of total deaths. Referring to the chart titled “Age and gender distribution of deceased COVID-19 cases in Canada” we can extrapolate that seniors account for over 90% of all deaths due to COVID-19 in Canada.
Sadly, seniors were the most adversely affected group in the first wave of the pandemic. They were affected from a morbidity viewpoint, also from their communication, mobility and adherence needs.
- Did we learn anything? Yes.
- Did we comply with the scientific recommendations? No.
- Result: the second, third and fourth waves were even worse!
Long-Term Care Crisis
The pandemic also exposed long-standing, wide-spread and pervasive deficiencies in the LTC sector. There is a crisis looming in that up to 90% of direct resident care is provided by unregulated and unlicensed care aides or personal support workers (PSWs). According to the report by the Royal Society of Canada, these PSWs often receive low wages, work part-time without benefits, are contracted through agencies and are unfamiliar with the LTC facility where they work, have high levels of work-related stress and are at risk of burn-out. Still worse, 25-30% work more than one job and 65% report having insufficient time to properly complete care tasks.
From a staffing perspective, a massive growth is expected over the next decade. We are all aware of our rapidly aging society, but are we paying attention to the changing needs in long-term care? Seniors are living longer and the age of seniors entering long-term care is also increasing. It is common to have residents in their 80’s, 90’s even 100 years old. This is unprecedented.
We rapidly need:
- more caregivers
- more personal support workers
- more training
- more innovation to enable caregivers to service more patients, patients to improve their quality of life and health care providers to monitor patients remotely and safely.
Science vs Politics
This year has been marred with politicians questioning and challenging science. Credibility has been disputed but reality has ultimately vindicated scientists. Unfortunately, media has become biased, moving away from independence of view. While most networks support the scientific view, some do not. They reflect populous views or those of local politicians which create serious divisions in our society. This is something we need to work on in 2021.
Science is clear and proven. Politics is not. Three important actions define the preventative measures one must take to avoid infection: Masks, Washing hands, Physical distancing. This has really been clear to all scientists and promoted internationally.
As expected, once politics gets involved, information becomes filtered through our political leaders before the public is informed. Huge shortages of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) resulted in a focus on using existing supplies to better protect our front-line healthcare workers. While much of the world wore masks, let us say, we were not strongly encouraged to do the same.
Fortunately, in Canada we have rational, mostly respected and well-educated politicians who are aligned with Health Canada and public health and allow them to operate independently and away of political influence. Daily public briefings by our provincial and federal leaders, health officials and even the media interviews with Canadian infectious disease experts has been exemplary.
When supplies finally became readily available, the politicians united and promoted mask wearing in public, especially when near others. However, anti-maskers used the original political stance as justification to not wear masks and to promote the non-wearing of masks on social media. The (COVID-19) waves rolled in. Government mandated shutdowns began.
Thanksgiving, more specifically ignoring government restrictions during Thanksgiving, resulted in a new wave. The pandemic reached impossible peaks just as the vaccines started their rollout. In many areas, lockdowns were tightened, Christmas gatherings cancelled and yet the number of infections continue to reach record proportions.
There is hope. With the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, we are all scheduled to be injected over the next several months. While the injection schedule of prioritized groups is political in nature, most politicians are listening to the public health authorities’ recommendations. This is good.
The Economic Inconsistencies
The economic restrictions and social distancing measures during the COVID-19 pandemic have caused major disruptions to Canadian businesses. Those disruptions are expected to have particularly large negative effects on small and medium-sized firms, as small and medium-sized firms tend to be concentrated in the travel- and tourism-related industries, such as transportation, restaurants, accommodation, and arts and entertainment, which are the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The effect of the pandemic on business has been nothing short of devastating. Many have failed. Most have been closed down for varying length of time. Logic seems to have faded from politicians’ minds as evident in the lack of consistency, anywhere. Schools open, gyms closed. Restaurants open, bars closed. Eat-in cancelled, take-out open. Caregivers prevented from caring for loved ones. Seniors dying alone. Weddings and funerals are restricted. Government run liquor stores can remain open, but a local clothing store may not. Walmart is an essential business, but going to your dentist is not? A dollar store is an essential service, but having your knee replacement surgery is not. Elective surgeries cancelled, cancer treatments postponed, but I can easily purchase a bottle of Scotch in person or buy suntan lotion at Walmart but not at my locally owned small business. Anyone can fly into the US from Canada, but you cannot cross the land border by car. Some politicians have been caught vacationing in Barbados and St. Barts while telling their constituents to stay home. Others are comfortably golfing in Florida. What message are they sending?
The economic crisis caused by the pandemic will leave long-lasting scars for many Canadian industries and take a heavy toll on the finances of governments at all levels.
I think you get the point; we need to take a deep breath and ride this out. Perhaps when this pandemic is over, we will empower the public health agencies to develop a proper, professionally researched pandemic response plan that makes sense to everyone. Clearly, we did not have one.
Innovation Survives, Medipense Adapts
Medipense has faired well during this time. While our clients faced lockdowns and could not embark on new projects and trials, we focussed our energies on enhancing the RxPense feature set to address many new requirements and strengthening existing ones. Our cloud-based RxPense portal, accessible from any connected device, promotes remote patient management. Remote patient management allows caregivers and personal support workers to remain connected to their patients, without having to be in the same room. Automation and innovation allow patients to take medications on time and remain connected to their loved ones. Video conferencing has become an essential feature. Access security, medication safety and blister packaging secured by a pharmacist ensures patients receive the right pills at the right time, preventing errors.
We have added Panique, a new fall detection and panic button solution connected to the RxPense. A fall will immediately alert a caregiver. We have created the RxPense Care portal, to help anyone, with or without the RxPense or blister packaged medications, to better manage their dispensing. Reminders, notifications, tracking and audit trails, video conferencing, SMS and email alerts, all standard. The RxPense Care portal will be officially launched January 2021.
International partners in the EU and APAC are preparing for a post-pandemic business surge. Our market, the toughest hit pandemic sector, is rapidly gaining prominence with politicians and funding. The future looks good.
Medipense will be adding unique management, monitoring and communications features and products to our portfolio in 2021. Yes, the future is extremely exciting. Stay tuned! Stay Safe!
-  Source:World Health Organization, Dashboard
-  National Institute on Ageing, Ryerson University
-  COVID-19 Situational Awareness Dashboard
-  June 2020 report on LTC home staffing by the Royal Society of Canada
-  Economic Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Canadian Businesses across Firm Size Classes, Wulong Gu, August 19, 2020
-  Record-high debt a long-term concern for governments in Canada, The Conference Board of Canada, December 16, 2020
- Health Canada, Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak update.
- World Health Organization, Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019