At this time, the COVID-19 moment looks promising, meaning we may be seeing the light at the end of the first tunnel. We are all excited to see the trending statistics declining and the bending of the curve. We are all hoping for an accelerated and successful “Return to Work Moment” staged over the next 30- and 60-day periods. This said, the battle is not over, we have a lot of ground to cover before the fall arrives. We have to return to work safely. We must actively invest in the requirements of healthy employees and healthy workplaces. There will be a lot more testing to do, so we can understand and get our numbers right. And of course, we must fully prepare ourselves for the eventual rebound, fully applying our learning so that our job and economic growth are not interrupted again as we work to identify successful therapies and a successful vaccination.
The Bright Light of the COVID-19 moment, however, is illuminating our future in health care, our systemic challenges, policy and market reform opportunities and the importance of the Health Age. Community Health, for example, will increasingly become a more common term. It will move to a position of central concern, debate and investment. Even such big concepts as the Environment will yield to the environmental impact of Community Health. This discussion will be about our understanding of Community Health in the home, in the workplace, in our public spaces, in our interactions and yes, everywhere we go. This is a healthy discussion and a health trend that is long overdue. It will be accelerated in the Health Age driving new economic growth, opportunity, health and health care innovation. It ultimately will result in healthier communities and healthier individuals. This is all good and even more promising is the understanding that it is the private sector and local communities that will lead and must lead this battle. At the start of the COVID-19 moment government and institutions proved to be less than agile; pivoting to the private sector to respond with determination and innovation. Understanding the challenges before them and the lack of early reliable information; objectively our institutional leadership are to be commended in their response at large. The response of our frontline health care providers, the food and consumer supply chain workers and truckers have proved heroic. But in the end, it is everyday citizen compliance that has been huge. This is an important lesson; the grit of the American people is uplifting.
Of course, in the bright light there are many other observations and specific policy and market learning opportunities. Four that are critical, include:
1) Health System Preparedness (health systems, states and counties must work together to assure that our health systems are prepared for epidemic considerations, they must be properly supplied and they must be able to care for epidemic-patient loads and the daily needs of ongoing patient care at the same time)
2) The critical requirement for individuals and communities, inclusive of employers to actively invest in the improved health of the individual, as the best defense against serious individual illness and the best offense to assure organizational and economic sustainability
3) The importance of empowering the marketplace and local communities to respond to the requirements of improved health and health care inclusive of the essential supply of health care products and services within our own communities
4) The importance of continued, intelligent, deregulation of the health care space enabling innovations like telehealth and the coverage of telehealth as preventative care under the ACA, successfully expanding access to care, affordability and critical care organizational bandwidth
There are many tunnels and lights in the days ahead. But our future is brighter when we learn and follow the lighted pathways.