The past few weeks have thrown a number of healthcare issues and concerns into sharp focus. COVID-19 and our response to the virus has highlighted the areas where our health sector needs to be strengthened and shown how we could make this happen. Learning from this crisis is the only way we’ll build a stronger, safer and more efficient health service which will be able to withstand the health challenges of the future.

The coronavirus outbreak has demonstrated how quickly healthcare changes can be implemented. London’s temporary NHS Nightingale Hospital, housed in the ExCel Centre, has made 4,000 extra beds available for coronavirus patients and was constructed within a fortnight. Other countries have also built new healthcare facilities with rapid speed: China was praised for building an entirely new Wuhan hospital in just over a week. The scale of this response is absolutely necessary due to the severity of the threat but we can’t let this sense of urgency disappear from healthcare when cases fall. This crisis has demonstrated how much hangs on our individual and collective health and we can’t ignore this when lockdown is lifted. Illness is not limited to coronavirus and there are countless other health issues crying out for greater support. It’s crucial we channel the proactivity we’re witnessing in the COVID-19 response towards other critical areas when the outbreak is contained.

Coronavirus has also shown us how essential pioneering tech is in expanding our healthcare reach and protecting NHS workers and patients. From 3D printed face masks to software helping doctors communicate more quickly, new tech is proving vital in responding to the virus. Even before the outbreak hit the appetite for innovation was clear. Now we’re seeing just how revolutionary digital tools can be for our healthcare system. Once we’ve used these tools we won’t be able to go back to the way things were before. Video conferencing, video triage and remote working will likely become a normal feature of life, for example. The huge strides in technology adoption made during this health crisis will be essential for the complete digital transformation of the NHS in the future.

The ways we can achieve this long-term digital transformation was the focus of a number of the conferences we attended before the outbreak. Throughout the debates and presentations one key point that kept arising was the importance of ease of use for new tech applications. Overstretched doctors don’t have time to learn a complex new system and the UK’s ageing population means unnecessarily complex technology won’t take hold. Ease of use is something we’ve worked hard to incorporate as we develop our Thalamos software. We were delighted to see this pay off at the Care Quality Commission’s SOAD conference in February where Thalamos received a 4.6/ 5 rating for ease of use. We’ll be doing everything we can to raise this rating even higher but it’s encouraging to hear this positive feedback on our work.

Looking to the future, it’s very possible that come 2021 coronavirus will come back. What are we doing now to be ready then? Even when we are successful at beating it, people are beginning to ask how this health crisis will help us better prepare for the next. Of course, no two crises are the same but it’s worth noting that the countries who have been most successful in containing the COVID-19 outbreak were those who wrestled with the SARS outbreak in 2002. We need to similarly learn from experience and interrogate our national coronavirus response if we want to minimise the impact of future health emergencies. We must examine which tools and approaches were useful and develop these after the outbreak ends. In this way, we can react instantaneously if another crisis occurs.

The past few weeks have been incredibly difficult and we know there will be challenges to come. However, we can still make these tragic experiences have a positive impact. We need to learn from this pandemic so our health service is better equipped to meet the needs of our nation. A country is as strong as its healthcare and this is the biggest lesson from coronavirus.