In response to the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the American health system, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) has convened experts in 9 sectors of health, health care, and biomedical research to review how each sector responded to COVID-19, identify challenges encountered in combating the pandemic, and outline what opportunities exist to reinforce, revitalize, and transform the health system. These insights are being released as 9 NAM Perspectives discussion papers between April and August of 2021, and then bundled into a NAM Special Publication titled Emerging Stronger After COVID-19: Priorities for Health System Transformation, scheduled to be released in Fall 2021. The NAM Special Publication will include all 9 previously published papers and a new concluding chapter that reviews cross-cutting themes and opportunities from the individual papers.
Two papers in this series, focused on quality, safety, and standards organizations and biomedical research, were published on July 26, 2021. Quality, Safety, and Standards Organizations COVID-19 Impact Assessment: Lessons Learned and Compelling Needs focuses on the experience of organizations established to ensure the nation’s safety and quality.
“Although quality, safety, and standards organizations responded as quickly and comprehensively as possible during COVID-19, we will have much more work to do as the pandemic recedes,” said Carolyn Clancy, Assistant Undersecretary for Health, Discovery, Education and Affiliate Networks (DEAN) at the Department of Veterans Affairs, one of the paper’s co-leads. “Our organizations can and should provide critical support in improving systems of preparedness for a variety of public health threats and improving and facilitating data sharing across sectors, which was such an impediment to understanding the scope and breadth of the pandemic early on. We hope that this paper will serve as a call to action to all quality, safety, and standards organizations in partnering with public health and health care to improve health equity, preparedness, and outcomes, particularly for patients residing in institutional settings.
The paper reviews how quality, safety, and standards organizations responded to COVID-19, including pivoting to virtual surveys and site visits, suspending data collection that did not directly impact patient care to lessen clinician burden, eliminating the need for nonemergency inspections, and immediately activating quality improvement networks across the country.
Kate Goodrich, Senior Vice President for Enterprise Clinical Management at Humana, one of the paper’s co-leads, noted “The pandemic was a test of whether the U.S. health care system can pivot to measure, motivate, and optimize health outcomes, and quality, safety, and standards organizations struggled to meet the urgent pandemic-related needs of patients and providers. We must use lessons learned from the pandemic to transform quality, safety, and standards organizations to operate in ways that both support the health system broadly but also add value without burdening clinicians and other health professionals.”
The sixth paper in the series focused on biomedical research. Biomedical researchers were experiencing pressure prior to the pandemic through hyper-competition, an aging research workforce, and the under-representation of women and researchers of color throughout the field. COVID-19 added an entirely new set of pressures but also provided an opportunity for sector-wide transformation.
“Biomedical researchers helped develop life-saving vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and many other interventions that helped our country get through the pandemic,” noted Michael Lauer, Deputy Director for Extramural Research at the National Institutes of Health, one of the paper’s co-leads. “Despite these many successes, the pandemic also identified many areas where the field can improve, including improving opportunities for women, people of color, and early career scientists as well as a continued focus on improving transparent and efficient data sharing.”
Biomedical Research COVID-19 Impact Assessment: Lessons Learned and Compelling Needs details the experience of biomedical researchers and the field writ large during the pandemic. This experience included the impact on basic science as the majority of research initiatives turned to focus on COVID-19, the success and challenges of unprecedented public-private partnerships, and the laudable successes that came from increased scientific collaboration and communication.
“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the incredible strengths and capacities of biomedical research in protecting our health, and also several learning opportunities,” said Nakela Cook, executive director of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), one of the paper’s co-leads. “Amid this heightened attention, our nation’s research enterprise has an unprecedented opportunity to capitalize on lessons learned during the pandemic and carry forward insights and new knowledge on what worked well and enhancements that will promote the field providing opportunities to all, encouraging collaboration and communication, and supporting the public’s engagement with and trust in the research being conducted on its behalf.”
The two papers, published today on July 26, and all future releases are available at nam.edu/TransformingHealth. The next three papers in the series will focus on digital health; health product manufacturers and innovators; and patients, families, and communities. These papers will be released in the coming weeks.
The NAM Special Publication, Emerging Stronger After COVID-19: Priorities for Health System Transformation, will be released in Fall 2021 and will be available at nam.edu/publications.
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