How the COVID-19 pandemic will change the future of critical care

Intensive Care Med. 2021 Mar;47(3):282-291. doi: 10.1007/s00134-021-06352-y. Epub 2021 Feb 22.


Coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) has posed unprecedented healthcare system challenges, some of which will lead to transformative change. It is obvious to healthcare workers and policymakers alike that an effective critical care surge response must be nested within the overall care delivery model. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted key elements of emergency preparedness. These include having national or regional strategic reserves of personal protective equipment, intensive care unit (ICU) devices, consumables and pharmaceuticals, as well as effective supply chains and efficient utilization protocols. ICUs must also be prepared to accommodate surges of patients and ICU staffing models should allow for fluctuations in demand. Pre-existing ICU triage and end-of-life care principles should be established, implemented and updated. Daily workflow processes should be restructured to include remote connection with multidisciplinary healthcare workers and frequent communication with relatives. The pandemic has also demonstrated the benefits of digital transformation and the value of remote monitoring technologies, such as wireless monitoring. Finally, the pandemic has highlighted the value of pre-existing epidemiological registries and agile randomized controlled platform trials in generating fast, reliable data. The COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder that besides our duty to care, we are committed to improve. By meeting these challenges today, we will be able to provide better care to future patients.

Keywords: COVID-19; Critical care; Intensive care; Pandemic; Technology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Critical Care / organization & administration
  • Critical Care / trends*
  • Disaster Planning
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / organization & administration
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / instrumentation
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / methods
  • Pandemics*
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Surge Capacity
  • Telemedicine
  • Workflow