Date: 8th February, 2021
As part of its partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Bahrain to study the socio-economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Bahrain Center for Strategic, International and Energy Studies (Derasat) released a report examining the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on people’s lives and their physical and mental well-being, and describing the benefits of using telemedicine during the pandemic in Bahrain.
The report relied on in-depth interviews with a sample of health professionals and telemedicine users, to gather qualitative evidence regarding the effect of Covid-19 pandemic on physical and mental health, and on the effectiveness of telemedicine as an alternative strategy for accessing healthcare services in Bahrain during the pandemic, and how the telemedicine practice can be improved in the future.
Dr. Fatima Alsebaie, Derasat Research Fellow and author of the report said, “Our research findings enable a better understanding of the psychological effects of Covid-19 epidemic on Bahrain’s population, and give insights into what necessary actions should be taken in this regards and recommendations on how to improve the telemedicine services, for the sake of the public interest”.
The report found that the Covid-19 pandemic affected the lives of individuals and families, causing disruptions to routines and alterations in lifestyles and behaviors, the most noticeable of which were the changes in lifestyle habits (exercising, eating, and sleep patterns); the reduction in visits to doctors for care, especially during the first phases of the pandemic due to the fear of infection at hospitals; declined social life and connection; increased social media use; and increased overseeing children’s education due to the shift to distance learning.
Also, the pandemic had caused an alteration in the ability of some patients to manage health and chronic diseases by themselves, and an increase in the number of visits for diabetes and mental health, especially for individuals aged 18-45 years old during the first phases of the pandemic.
As a result of the great changes that were caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in the public life, young adults aged 18-36 years old were the most affected category by stress and depression, mainly due to the difficulty in adjusting to the new situation and changes brought on their social life and daily activities.
Moreover, the shifting to distance learning added a new role for working mothers with school-age children and added stress and challenges to their daily responsibility, which might have led to negative physical and/or mental health outcomes. This is an additional reason to focus on solutions for maintaining people’s physical and mental health, regardless of age.
The report stated that the shift to telemedicine in Bahrain during Covid-19 played a key and effective role in mitigating the disruption of healthcare services and minimizing the transmission risk of Covid-19. Also, it has led to a better level of efficiency, and cooperation and coordination in the healthcare sector, as it has redesigned the work models and altered work flows between healthcare providers, this led to the launch of new services on insurance and medication delivery during the pandemic.
In addition, the experience of telemedicine encountered several obstacles during the pandemic, the most important of which are absence of insurance coverage in some private healthcare providers, lack of technology skills by some patients or healthcare professionals, and restrictions on prescribing controlled psychiatric medications.
The report recommended the necessity of paying attention to the development of telemedicine and its further development as a future industry for its social and economic benefits, accurately setting standards for practicing telemedicine with the latest approaches and technology, employing digital smart applications in the care and health services, and constant interaction and cooperation between all parties of the healthcare sector. This is crucial to improve the quality of healthcare and facilitate its delivery in Bahrain.