Hospitals have learned a lot about treating COVID-19 since the world first learned of the novel disease at the end of 2019. Integrated hospital systems worked together to share knowledge and best practices to treat this disease at unprecedented speeds and the advancements continue to come.
Out of these advancements is a new normal for our hospitals. FAH President and CEO Chip Kahn spoke with two experts about where we stand in the pandemic and what policies need to be enacted to cope with it moving forward.
Dr. Michael Cuffe, Executive Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer for HCA Healthcare, kicked off the conversation talking about the current state of COVID in the US.
“The clinical intensity – that is intensive care units, ventilator use, and mortality – is all lower. And in fact, the Omicron experience was less than half the clinical intensity of our Delta experience. So we’re clearly improving. However, I would say that this is becoming more an endemic flu-like illness, less fatal disease in the United States, for sure with our increasing immunity, our therapeutics, but it’s not behind us.”
Prof. Martin McKee is a Professor of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and soon-to-be president of the British Medical Association. He says Europe is seeing a similar trend, but adds that with a less organized testing system it is tougher to track in real time what is happening.
“I think there is a political view that we want to put the pandemic behind us. Unfortunately, the virus isn’t entirely agreeing. And I think there is a degree of concern that we will have new variants emerging. We already see that with BA four and BA five, for example, in South Africa, we’re seeing them taking off and we have an expectation that as with BA one and BA two, they will get to us eventually.”
Dr. Cuffe then addressed how integrated health systems, like HCA Healthcare, adapted quicky during the pandemic – using data to save lives.
“I think the success that HCA Healthcare was a demonstration that scale matters in response. Our leadership focused on creating capacity – financial capacity and clinical capacity. The bottom line for us was scale mattered – scale mattered in the supply chain and our ability to move things around our system and find alternatives. It mattered at market levels and state levels and flexing our staffing. Ultimately, it helped patients.”
So what did we learn from COVID and how will it change public health moving forward, Professor McKee, who was a member of the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development reporting the World Health Organization (WHO), addressed things from a global scale.
“We’ve spent much of the last year and a half thinking about these things, and we have a whole series of proposals that are going forward through the WHO, the G-20 and elsewhere. And we are starting off from the need to prevent the emergence of a future pandemic – that means addressing the issue of one health, the interrelationship between the health of humans, animals and the environment and it goes through to ensuring that we have a greater commitment to investing in health.
You can listen to the complete episode here.