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Transform Care February 06, 2020

Healthcare's Coronavirus Priority? Coordination.

Partner, Health and Life Sciences, Oliver Wyman
Principal, Health and Life Sciences, Oliver Wyman

Editor’s Note: The following article is part of an ongoing series offering our strategic advice and expertise on what hospitals, healthcare workers, providers, and caregivers should do immediately in response to the rapidly evolving novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The global public health response to the coronavirus is massive. To date, this outbreak has surpassed any previous outbreak (SARS, Ebola, MERS). Some industries like retail and travel face possible short-term business losses due to travel restrictions, widespread quarantines, and the like.

In the meantime, the healthcare industry is operating at maximum capacity. For healthcare workers, terms like “contact tracing” and “quarantine” are now becoming everyday lingo. We are seeing healthcare facilities stretched to their limits, and healthcare professionals knowingly putting themselves at higher risk of contracting the virus. China has shown an incredible ability to mobilize both people and capital (including erecting an entirely new hospital in a matter of days). Now, the rest of the world must do its part to help address shortages of necessary resources and equipment.

Worthy of note: the initial lapses in reporting and diagnoses show our model of encounter-based care, one where healthcare waits for sick patients to come in when they think they are sick, must change. We must find a treatment and/or a vaccine. But because of the need for more research, more clinical trials, and mandated safety protocols, we're about a year away from a solution like this being readily available.

We need to more than ever focus on coordination – across borders, with authorities, with research, academia, and the clinical community – and ensure the pursuit of public health outcomes goes beyond politics.

So where does that leave us?

2020 has brought such natural risks as climate and public health to the forefront. In this light, we should plan and prepare for resilience as businesses and as a society.

In healthcare, we need to more than ever focus on coordination – across borders, with authorities, with research, academia, and the clinical community – and ensure the pursuit of public health outcomes goes beyond politics. As businesses, we need to think more systematically about risks and readiness  – a viral outbreak is no longer a “black swan” but an anticipated event. As individuals, we should avoid the doomsday hype that stokes unnecessary fear and seek facts from reputable sources and authorities.

A collective, measured response is key. Future reactions must be relative to risk. We should focus on diligence and safety and balance that with maintaining as much normalcy as possible. Despite the uncertainty and unknown endurance of the coronavirus outbreak, there will be recovery. We should evaluate and take stock of lessons learned. We should put future measures for preparation in place. What has become clear amidst uncertainty is that global crises will persist and will continue to repeat themselves. We must look to the past and the present to understand our future, not act as situations unfold.

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