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Playing Pandemic Woulda Shoulda Coulda

If you’re an avid sports fan, second guessing is second nature. They should have gone for it on fourth down rather than kick a field goal. They should have walked him, not pitch to him. Why was he on the bench with three seconds left? Next time just shoot the damn puck! 

I’m not much for second guessers. It’s too easy. It doesn’t take any brains, skill or any guts. You just say someone should have done the opposite of what they did, and it all would have worked out great.

In sports, great means your team would have won if they had only done what you say they should have done instead of what they did. But what if the game was preventing or defeating a deadly pandemic like the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S.?

Well, what the U.S. should have done to prevent or defeat COVID-19 is all spelled out in a new 25-page report from the Healthcare Leadership Council and the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy. You can download the report here.

Essentially, the report is a blueprint on how the public sector and the private sector can work together to help the U.S. respond more effectively to the next pandemic or national public health emergency. 

Don’t get me wrong. I think the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic was a complete and utter failure deliberately orchestrated by a criminal enterprise to re-elect an anti-democratic wannabe fascist dictator. That’s not second guessing. That’s simply telling it like it is based on the facts.

What I’m talking about are all the second guessers who signed on to the new HLC-Duke-Margolis report,  National Dialogue for Healthcare Innovation: Framework for Private-Public Collaboration on Disaster Preparedness and Response. The list of contributors and participants—105 in all—reads like a who’s who of healthcare. In fact, I’d argue that it is healthcare—the healthcare industrial complex.

The list includes prominent associations like the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association. It includes prominent health systems like Ascension, HCA Healthcare and the Mayo Clinic. It includes prominent manufacturers like Amgen and Medtronic. It includes prominent GPOs and distributors like Premier and AmerisourceBergen. It includes prominent health insurers like Aetna, Anthem and two Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans. The list includes five federal agencies like HHS, CMS and the CDC.  Heck, even the Joint Commission is on the list. 

And, to be fair, what all these healthcare A-listers recommend in the new report is impressive. 

They recommend seven private-sector actions to improve disaster preparedness, resilience and response, including: 

  • Identifying financing mechanisms that support capacity building for preparedness, public health and emergency response efforts
  • Establishing new approaches to supply chain management to prevent significant disruptions
  • Investing in tools that can address health disparities and improve health equity

They recommend eight government actions to improve public-private coordination and collaboration for public health emergencies, including:

  • Streamlining regulations especially for capacity challenges, virtual care expansions and licensure and scope of practice for workforce mobility across states
  • Reforming data collection, coordination and utilization approaches to support disaster response efforts and modernizing national health IT systems and capabilities
  • Developing mechanisms for collecting supply chain information to identify vulnerabilities

It’s a great plan from the industry’s leading public and private organizations. My question is, why didn’t they do this before? None of this is new. They just didn’t do it. The pandemic exposed the inaction and selfish devotion to the status quo. The report is textbook second guessing if not gentle finger pointing. 

Let’s see what happens when this pandemic ends. Will the who’s who of healthcare do what they should have done in the first place to effectively respond to the next pandemic? Or will they file this new report away in a drawer or email folder never to be seen again and go about business as usual?

Woulda shoulda coulda.

Thanks for reading.

Stay home. Stay safe. Stay alive. The vaccine is coming. Really. Eventually.

To read more about why the U.S. wasn’t prepared, despite knowing how, read “Pandemic Preparedness: Beyond Bioterrorism & Federalism” by Kerry Weems from July 21, 2020.

About the 4sight Health Author
David Burda News Editor & Columnist

Dave is 4sight Health’s biggest news junkie, resident journalist and healthcare historian. He began covering healthcare in 1983 and hasn’t stopped since. Dave writes his own column, “Burda on Health,” for us, contributes weekly blog posts, and manages our weekly e-newsletter and weekly podcast, 4sight Friday and 4sight Roundup. Dave believes that healthcare is a business like any other business, and customers—patients—are king. If you do what’s right for patients, good business results will follow. Follow Burda on Twitter @DavidRBurda and on LinkedIn.