Health care lessons ignored from our fight against COVID-19

Health care lessons ignored from our fight against COVID-19
Believe it or not, there are urgent health care issues facing our nation that are not exclusively pandemic-specific. As we move forward with a new administration in Washington, our thinking, planning and execution of a whole host of health care opportunities must be informed by the tough and valuable lessons we have learned (but are still largely ignoring) from our battle against COVID-19.  

• The urgency of coordination

The current problems we’re dealing with relative to vaccine roll-out remind us how much we have learned — and how little we have absorbed. If, in March of 2020, I had predicted we’d have a well-stocked COVID-19 armamentarium replete with diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines by the end of the year — I would have been accused of wishful thinking. 

COVID-19 Urgency Lesson #1: A key facilitator of velocity is broad participation. We can accomplish great things quickly when we work together. Our health care ecosystem, including the biopharmaceutical industry, academia, government health agencies, manufacturing logicians, hospitalists, health care workers, pharmacists, patients and caregivers all helped to accelerate our understanding of the virus, how to mitigate it, flatten the curve and save lives. Imagine what we will accomplish working together more regularly on a wide array of opportunities to improve the human condition? 

• The urgency of innovation

Medical science has consistently found new ways to extend and improve lives. Wonderful as they are, they do not come cheap. The complicated and conflicting dynamics of politics, perspectives on health care economics, of friction between payers, providers, manufacturers and regulators, the battle for better patient education, and the need for a more forceful and factual debate over the value of innovation all create the need for a more balanced and robust debate. 

COVID-19 Urgency Lesson #2: Innovation is never as easy as it looks. As any scientist will tell you, innovation happens step by step, one incremental innovation at a time. Innovation is hard – but urgent. Beyond COVID-19, we must also embrace innovative technologies for medical records and prescribing. We need innovative clinical trial designs and molecular diagnostics so that we can develop better, more personalized medicines faster and for far less than the current $1 billion-plus delivery charge. We need innovation in access and reimbursement policies. 

 
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