WASHINGTON – 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 will be released as 9 NAM Perspectives discussion papers between April and June of 2021, and then bundled into an 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 health care payers and clinicians and professional societies, were published on May 17, 2021. Health Care Payers COVID-19 Impact Assessment: Lessons Learned and Compelling Needs focuses on the experience of health care payers during COVID-19 – specifically those who cover Medicare, Medicaid, and adults with fully insured employer health plans.

“The COVID-19 pandemic occurred during the intentional but unacceptably slow changes to our health care system’s ability to achieve the best outcomes for all Americans,” said Mark McClellan from the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, one of the paper’s co-leads. “We have known for decades that the U.S. health financing system needs to center value-based care in order to both provide affordable access to care and adequate reimbursement to providers. The pandemic has shown us that value-based care is also more resilient during a public health emergency – the need for transformation cannot be ignored any longer.”

The paper reviews how health care payers responded to COVID-19, including pivoting to support virtual health care and addressing the non-medical needs of patients, and also illuminates opportunities for transformative sector-wide policy, regulatory, and legal changes that the authors collect under six major headers.

Rahul Rajkumar from Care Solutions at Optum, one of the paper’s co-leads, noted “The pandemic has offered payers a window into what a system that focused on value-based care could look like, how it would operate, and how it would benefit Americans. We hope that this paper is a real call to action for not only health care payers but stakeholders across the system – the time to act, and act in truly transformative ways, is now. We cannot miss this opportunity to close the gaps that remain across the system.”

The fourth paper in the series focused on clinicians and professional societies – the true frontline of the pandemic. Clinicians have worked tirelessly from the beginning of the pandemic to care for patients, provide critical public health support, and more recently, vaccinate the American public – all within a system that has struggled to support them for decades.

“Clinician well-being and burnout was a public health crisis before the pandemic – it’s now an outright epidemic of its own,” noted James Madara from the American Medical Association, one of the paper’s co-leads. “Everyone now knows how hard clinicians work, and under what conditions – but we cannot let their moment in the limelight pass without implementing significant, systematic changes to support their physical and mental health. Our health care system depends on it.”

Clinicians and Professional Societies COVID-19 Impact Assessment: Lessons Learned and Compelling Needs details the experience of clinicians and professional societies during the pandemic, including developing clinical guidelines for COVID-19, adapting delivery systems to the novel virus, and informing the public throughout. The paper also provides priority actions and policy considerations for supporting the clinician workforce after COVID-19 – both to provide traditional care and in anticipation of the next pandemic.

“A robust, healthy, and resilient clinician workforce is absolutely necessary to support a thriving health system,” said Suzanne Miyamoto of the American Academy of Nursing, one of the paper’s co-leads. “We need to not only support clinicians in the moment, by protecting their physical, mental, and emotional health, but also need to invest in clinicians over the long-term. Transforming the education and training of clinicians is fundamental in ensuring that our health care workforce can address everything from routine physicals to connecting individuals with secure housing, to performing life-saving surgery, to administering vaccines for COVID-19. To achieve a healthier future for all, clinicians and students deserve our continued commitment and investment.”

The two papers published on May 17 and all future releases are available at nam.edu/TransformingHealth. The next five papers in the series will focus on quality, safety, and standards organizations; biomedical research; 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.


Please contact namleadershipconsortium@nas.edu with any questions or requests.

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