COVID-19 Shows the Need for Global Perspective on Healthcare

Apr 28, 2020

The Managed Healthcare Executive Editorial Board Member explains the fight for the cure or to "flatten the curve" is far from over until we all look at healthcare with a global eye.

As 2019 turned into 2020, we saw the first cases of COVID-19 come into the global spotlight. Many people had never heard of a place called Wuhan, but it wouldn’t be long until the entire world was looking toward this town in Eastern China.

China quickly learned of the severity of this disease, ultimately building two hospitals to specifically combat this illness in about a week. The world watched on as they eventually quarantined people in their homes to stop the spread of this virus.

Italy was the next country to really feel the effects of COVID-19, beginning with a few cases and little alarm from the locals. But as the virus spread, so did the strain on the health system and it wasn’t long before Italy was in a full-blown crisis. Doctors stayed in hospitals to treat the infirm for over three weeks before returning home. Many healthcare workers (over 400 in mid-March) were seriously ill with the virus, requiring treatment and resources themselves, in addition to the public that was crying out for care.

Related: Cotiviti Launches COVID-19 Outbreak Tracker to Forecast Potential “Hot Spots” in US

The World Health Organization officially called COVID-19 a pandemic as it swept across the globe and into the U.S., especially New York City. With little information available and no vaccine or treatment ready to be administered, we were forced into a trial by fire. The incubation period of the disease tends to be between two and six days, but some outlier cases took up to 27 days. How does a community, or an entire country, combat a virus like this? Cue social distancing, self-quarantine, moratoriums on social gatherings, and all the efforts to “flatten the curve.”

Hospitals in hotspots have been overwhelmed by people with COVID-19 and hospitals nearly everywhere prepared for a huge wave of patients. According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, by the end of April there were 2.54 million confirmed cases around the world and almost 176,000 deaths. The Johns Hopkins tally for the United States was 890,000 cases and 50,114 deaths.

The pandemic is far from over. There are more questions than answers about testing, treatments, and, what we need most, an effective vaccine.

But this much is certain; we’re the most connected we have ever been as a global society. We have all the power in the world to talk to each other-distance, language, geography offer no barriers-and yet we don’t take advantage of it. This has to change.

There are many websites and organizations tracking the COVID-19 cases nationally and globally, hospitalizations and deaths, including, of course, the CDC.

It’s clear there is no better time than now to start really looking at healthcare with a global eye. We need to study what other countries are doing, how they've combated COVID-19, where they are successful, and where they could have done better. This type of analysis will help every country, not just the U.S., tackle COVID-19 more effectively. We must not only come together within our communities to support local businesses and protect each other from contamination, but we must learn from our international counterparts so we can avoid their pitfalls and follow their formulas for success.

Perry Cohen is co-founder and CEO of The Pharmacy Group, a pharmaceutical  industry consulting company, and a member of the Managed Healthcare Executive editorial advisory board. Cohen is also the head of TPG International Health Academy, which hold educational summits for healthcare executives around the world. The academy is currently reviewing its plans for 2020 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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