- The healthcare industry is on the front lines of the effort to treat coronavirus patients and cure the disease.
- The pandemic presents unprecedented challenges for the entire industry, from doctors and hospitals to drugmakers.
- We talked to 26 top leaders in healthcare about how the pandemic is changing their companies, the industry, and the world.
- This feature is part of a series based on conversations with more than 200 CEOs on how business will be transformed by the coronavirus. To read more, click here.
The healthcare industry has been forced to confront the scourge of the coronavirus like no other part of the US economy.
Healthcare workers are on the front lines of the battle against the pandemic, treating sick patients flooding hospitals. At the same time, the outbreak has brought to a halt many of the most lucrative parts of the industry, such as surgeries and procedures, threatening the financial futures of hospitals and leading to pay cuts and furloughs for workers.
Meanwhile, biotech and pharmaceutical companies are scrambling to come up with a treatment or a vaccine to halt the coronavirus. More than 100 vaccines are in the works, and dozens of drugmakers are working on treatments for the coronavirus.
At the same time, coronavirus has exposed the industry’s vulnerabilities: hospitals ran short of protective gear, leaving workers without masks and gowns to protect them from the virus. While the worst predictions have yet to materialize, hospitals in hard-hit areas took extraordinary measures to make space for coronavirus patients, turning lobbies and surgery suites into rooms for patients.
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Some of the industry’s challenges, though, aren’t unique. Doctors and nurses are trying to figure out how much of their work they can do over video and by phone, a task similar to the one facing office workers worldwide. And more broadly, executives are trying to navigate a future in which more work, and more healthcare, happens virtually.
We asked top leaders across healthcare three questions:
How will the coronavirus change your company, your industry, and the world.
Their answers, edited for length and clarity, follow.
Ido Schoenberg, co-CEO of American Well: ‘We are in for a challenging period as a nation.’
People tend to think that the main challenge of this crisis relates to the viral infection, but the biggest burden has actually been on traditional care. The seniors and those who are chronically ill are suddenly stuck at home. Their ability to access the care they need through technology has been an enormous relief.
The demand for telehealth skyrocketed. On average we are now operating at more than 10 times last year.There were lots of barriers that prevented this wonderful tool from being truly adopted that have since been removed.
The current crisis is horrific. It’s horrific from a health standpoint. It’s also horrific from an economic standpoint. We see that many people are losing their jobs. Many businesses may or may not survive this. And a recession is likely.
In a situation like that, lots of problems happen, right? Healthcare is funded by a lot of self-insured employers, for example. Healthcare is funded by the government, and the government may have a lot on its plate going forward. So I think that we are in for a challenging period as a nation, and everybody will feel the impact in one way or another.
But telehealth is also very, very efficient. And there is a lot to be said about the enormous clinical waste that we see in healthcare today.
Digital connectivity isn’t just about videoconferencing. That ability to connect data from patients, move it into the cloud, analyze it in real time, and send the right intervention back into their most convenient location, which typically is the home, is this fundamental change.
And there is a word for that. What you are going to see is the democratization of healthcare.
Giovanni Caforio, CEO of Bristol Myers Squibb: ‘We are learning valuable lessons on being nimble, collaborating in new ways and leveraging talent.’
COVID-19 has the potential to enhance the strong collaboration among academia, government and other companies as we focus on treatments and vaccines for the virus.
During this pandemic, it has been abundantly clear that the biopharma industry plays a critical role in the prevention and treatment of viruses like COVID-19. Our industry is working around the clock to find treatments and a vaccine and we are sharing those findings with governments and other companies.
I believe that our ability to partner with other scientific organizations, our development expertise and manufacturing capabilities are what will ultimately help us treat and prevent this virus, and I have been impressed by the collaboration and speed with which our industry is responding. My hope is that collaboration will continue.
As I reflect personally, I see that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our society and communities and caused everyone to look at life differently. The virus has brought out some of the best in humanity, through a strong focus on philanthropy and relief efforts, science and innovation, and incredible support for the health care workers and those on the front lines.
This is an unprecedented time and it is my belief that we are learning valuable lessons on being nimble, collaborating in new ways and leveraging talent in new and different ways. Understanding that every person is navigating this crisis with a different personal reality, our work policies account for flexible hours and schedules, which enables our colleagues to better juggle their responsibilities at home with work.
We are open to taking these lessons and applying them to work in the future. I believe we will be an even stronger company because of the pandemic.
Mark Ganz, CEO of Cambia Health Solutions: ‘We’re going to have a mental health epidemic that’s going to follow this virus.’
We will be probably more of a remote-working company than we were before, because we will learn that we can.
We’re going to have a mental health epidemic that’s going to follow this virus. We’ve put a lot of thought into how can we proactively work to address that.
There’s an opportunity for this country to realize that mental health and physical health are not so different. They are completely interrelated and one of the paths to people getting physically healthy is going to be paying better attention to their mental health.
We are in the middle of a game change around more convenient forms of care.
Why is it that when someone’s sick, they must go to the bricks and mortar palace, wait in a waiting room for a long time and then be, told, Oh, the doctor will see you now. We could do better than that.
I believe that the only way we’re going to come up with a resilient, long term workable solutions is going to be public-private partnerships work where businesses can kind of work cheek to jowl or hand to glove with public health agencies and we solve these challenges together.
I’m hopeful that one of the things that will come out of this is that there’ll be a reset of the social compact between those in ‘the healthcare industry’ and those who we serve and that it will be much more focused on the human experience and recognizing that what we’re supposed to be doing is taking care of the individual.
[I’m hopeful that COVID] will unleash a human centered level of innovation because we have to have that in order to be able to get through this. As hard as the Great Depression was, that was also what bore the greatest generation. I believe that something like that is at work here.
Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: ‘Our focus is on providing high-quality care.’
We’re having those conversations [with health systems and insurers].
One example that we hear about all the time is telehealth, and that’s a great example of a service that is creating greater flexibility and accessibility for our patients. And so we’re continuing as part of this effort to really think about what should be maintained and what is part of our longstanding effort, “Patients over Paperwork.” That really fits into a lot of what we’ve been trying to accomplish over the last three years.
We continue to hear from healthcare providers on the front lines about what’s burdensome. It has created a lot of discussion even within CMS about some of these items – do they really need to be continued? We will be assessing this fully after we get past the pandemic.
One of the things that we’re also focused on is to make sure that we have strong program integrity and that the changes that we make aren’t going to have a negative impact on the Medicare trust fund. Our focus is on providing high-quality care and making sure that we are leveraging technology and modernizing the program to provide high-quality care to our Medicare beneficiaries.
Brent Shafer, CEO of Cerner: ‘It’s like the foundation is there, the wiring has been laid, but often it’s not utilized to its fullest extent’
Moving our almost 30,000 employees to a virtual organization – while also helping providers address different surges and needs around the world – has been a very intense effort.
We deal with about 250 million patient records from around the world. And there’s about 3 million users on our systems each day. Putting providers in a position where they can deliver the care that’s needed through this is really key.
We often say that, in a way, healthcare is mostly digitized – because we were one of the companies that helped to make that happen. On the other hand, it’s like the foundation is there, the wiring has been laid, but often it’s not utilized to its fullest extent.
When put to use, it can accomplish a great deal. A health system in Seattle, for instance, was one of the first hit with a surge of coronavirus patients in the US. Through a forum on Cerner’s platform for patient data, they were then able to share some of their emergency department protocols with a broader group of providers.
I think healthcare groups around the world will show more interest in really using the capabilities around data analytics. So that they can then anticipate what’s coming, anticipate the needs, and look at the health of populations in a more organized way than we have in the past.
Neil de Crescenzo, CEO of Change Healthcare: ‘Things are just moving a lot faster than they used to.’
Everybody in the country is trying to figure out what’s going on with the spread of COVID, literally on a daily, if not hourly basis. And historically, the healthcare system hasn’t been that dynamic or fluid.
There’s about $350 billion of payments made to providers with paper checks in this country.
We’ve been working with our customers to make all of that electronic for a long time, but suddenly – when they’re looking at how to minimize the need for people to come into the office – it becomes an even bigger priority. We’ve also helped people virtually enroll for Medicaid or disability using capabilities like DocuSign. A lot of the regulators required things to be done in person, but now people are finally doing away with those restrictions.
Whether it’s operating the clinic or the hospital, whether it’s dealing with getting people the financial support they need, or even having payments be facilitated between payers and providers – things are just moving a lot faster than they used to.
Hospitals and regulators have had to adapt very quickly to greater data liquidity and the capabilities we provide to put that data in the hands of anybody, with appropriate consent, who needs it. They’re realizing that we, perhaps, should have been even more aggressive and in that coming to pass. And I think that ethos will remain long after the crisis is over.
Janice Nevin, CEO of ChristianaCare: ‘We accomplished two to three years of work in about two to three weeks.’
Our pre-COVID mantra was: “Everything that can be digital will be digital. Everything that can be done in the home will be done in the home.”
We expected that work to be the core of our next several years’ strategic plan. We accomplished two to three years of work in about two to three weeks once we found ourselves needing to address the COVID-19 issues.
We had one virtual practice. We now have 160 virtual practice sites. We also have a sophisticated data platform called CareVio that aggregates, analyzes, and uses predictive analytics to set alerts to manage populations.
We created a COVID-19 monitoring practice that uses secure texting and alerts to elevate a patient who has a deterioration in their symptoms to do a virtual visit for appropriate management.
One of my colleagues said, “Now that the genie is out of the bottle, we won’t be putting it back in.”
I do see providers and patients who are now having a very different experience. They will want to continue to have that experience and to be able to get significant parts of their care digitally from home.
Everything we learned about managing COVID-19 on the virtual monitoring practice can be applied to multiple chronic diseases, including diabetes, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and asthma.
This move to digital technology, to a virtual platform, will be something that the industry as a whole will embrace to various levels of sophistication depending on where a particular health system might have been before this. This is one of the ways that we create value, impact health, and make care more affordable.
The other thing that we’ve learned from this experience is how hospitals play an incredible role in the public health infrastructure and the economy in their communities.
Steve Miller, chief medical officer of Cigna: ‘This is actually going to be the permanent opportunity to lower the cost, improve the quality of healthcare.’
There’s going to be actually some really interesting, good things for healthcare to come out of this.
We really believed that telehealth was going to be important for the future. But as you know, telehealth was off to a really slow start. But now it has gone nuts. The amount of telehealth we’re doing now is extraordinary.
We believe that this is actually going to be the permanent opportunity to lower the cost, improve the quality of healthcare.
We’ve seen an explosion in mail-order pharmacy. So people truly are taking advantage of not only the longer fill you get, the 90-day fill that gives you piece of mind for supply, but they loved the idea that it comes directly to their home.
Because we have employer-based healthcare in the US, people losing or having to shift their benefit obviously is a challenge for us. We’re seeing a real growth in people moving to the exchanges and also we’ve developed pharmacy capabilities for those recently unemployed.
I think what we’re seeing is a level of cooperation both within the industry but also with our provider partners. I think that some of it will go back towards normal when the crisis passes because this is a really expensive way to manage healthcare.
For the industry we’re going to see both challenges, challenges by more people moving to the exchanges. more people moving to Medicaid. But we’re going to see advances that are actually going to make for better healthcare system that’s lower in cost and personalized.
We were all moving towards more common areas. Now if you actually have a private office you’re feeling a little better about it. We’re going to need quite a while until we have a vaccine, so how you social distance in the worksite is going to change.
Tom Mihaljevic, CEO of Cleveland Clinic: ‘We are going to see the resurgence of manufacturing domestically.’
Before the pandemic, about 2% of our visits were based on the digital interface. Right now, 75% of our ambulatory care is being provided through digital. That’s definitely here to stay.
What is also going to change is that a lot of care will be delivered at home rather than in hospital to keep the hospital environment safe as well as patients way less exposed to infections like this.
Every country, the US in particular, will make sure our dependency to provide healthcare isn’t completely dependent on getting supplies from foreign sources. We are going to see the resurgence of manufacturing domestically that will provide critically important items, including pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment, and technology. This will allow us to be not so easily exposed to the shortages that we’re currently experiencing.
We are very likely going to see an accelerated decline in individual private practices or group practices that will simply not be able to withstand the financial pressures of a large pandemic like this.
We’re going to see fewer, yet larger, integrated healthcare delivery systems that will be caring for a larger number of patients, and a declining number of smaller systems and some smaller standalone hospitals as well.
People about to start their medical careers will be thinking twice about whether they’re going to go into a private practice or join a large integrated healthcare system. One reason is financial, but the other reason is the dependency of technology.
Provision of care through telemedicine, through data analytics and artificial intelligence, is going to be difficult to source if you’re a private practitioner. A large integrated healthcare delivery system has the ability to provide the tools for the delivery of 21st century healthcare.
Lloyd Dean, CEO of CommonSpirit Health: ‘We must more effectively meet patients where they are.’
The new future will be one in which our operations will need to anticipate and meet the demand of rapid surges. Our sustained resilience in the face of unanticipated stresses on our system is going to be more important than ever.
We are taking the lessons from these past few months and undergoing serious planning so we can flex our system in ways we haven’t needed to in more than a generation.
More than ever, the spread of COVID-19 has also brought to light how much our health depends on the local environment around us. Healthcare should be more responsive to the needs of everyone, especially vulnerable and underserved populations who have been disproportionately affected by this virus.
We must more effectively meet patients where they are when mobility is limited if brick and mortar care sites are impaired for any reason. One of the positive things that can come out of this tragic pandemic is if we use data to target necessary health services locally and make care more convenient and accessible to our communities.
We now have the tremendous duty to walk with our most vulnerable patients through their medical, behavioral, and social health needs that may have gone unattended during this crisis. My greatest hope is that we will rebuild the healthcare system so that it is stronger and serves all people.
As a global society, there is a realization that we aren’t invincible. All of the benefits of our global economy also left us more exposed to the transmission of viruses such as COVID-19. We need to prioritize cooperation on a global scale to ensure early monitoring and detection of outbreaks.
Larry Merlo, CEO of CVS Health: ‘We’re reaching consumers, we’re helping them stay safe’
We’ve got a new strategy as part of CVS and Aetna becoming one company. For us it’s really more about the affirmation of the strategy, the role that we want to play in people’s health.
We’re reaching consumers, we’re helping them stay safe. We’ve waived fees around home delivery, we increased access to critical offerings like telemedicine. We are confident that the strategy that we’ve been working on building is the right one for the future. This convenience-based model, it’s not going to go away.
A lot of what we’re doing will become part of the new normal.
We’ve talked about three important goals as part of that strategy. The first one being local, whether it’s in the community, in the home, work, or now for many in the palm of their hand through digital devices.
We’re seeing terrific examples of public-private partnerships. Obviously there’s a lot of discussion currently in the news around the role of testing. Are we adequately testing people today? What will be testing needs for the future?
We’ve forged partnerships, both at a federal and state level in terms of responding to the needs for testing.
That’s something that we absolutely don’t want to lose. The private sector plays a critically important role in innovation and competition. I hope we can continue to capitalize on any opportunities that can create to bring solutions to unmet needs.
The world has to work together to avoid the next pandemic. I hope that’s something that all of us will never forget what we’re experiencing, and how we can avoid that.
Judy Faulkner, CEO of Epic Systems: ‘There are going to be bankruptcies. It’s going to be a tough, tough time.’
The health systems in general are in financial distress right now. So that’s going to affect their staffing levels and morale, their capital expenditures, and their operating expenditures. There are going to be bankruptcies. It’s going to be a tough, tough time.
A lot of our customers have seen a 35% to 55% drop in revenue. That’s a lot. And if you do that month after month, you can’t keep affording to pay your staff. So that’s going to be a big problem. There’s already been at least one bankruptcy. And there’ll be mergers and acquisitions, as some of the smaller providers will get purchased by larger health systems who can afford to stay afloat.
There may be more interest in doing HMOs and other arrangements where the patients are capitated, because those folks didn’t get hit as hard financially. Because they get paid a regular amount every month, and it doesn’t matter whether there’s a virus.
There’s a lot of nice things, too, and more creative thinking. There’s been better reimbursement models for digital health, new infection control processes, and far more video visits. We calculated there are 100 times as many video visits as there were in months before the pandemic.
We’ll see more remote training, remote patient monitoring, and faster implementations of technology. We ended up doing a whole bunch of implementations in three to five days. They normally take months. We did the Javits Center in New York, we did McCormick Place in Chicago, we did the Navy ship Comfort – all in just a few days.
I think there’ll be more of a focus on public health surveillance and more of a focus, too, on capacity and resource management. For Epic, I think that we will be helping some of the governments in the states and maybe the federal government with their health information.
Jaewon Ryu, CEO of Geisinger: ‘Hospitals will think about their supply chain differently.’
What will we do differently coming out of COVID? I actually think communication. I always thought we did it pretty well, but wow. We never could have imagined how much we could take it to a different level.
[On telemedicine and mail order pharmacy program] The program has just kicked into a different gear as a result of COVID. And I don’t think that we’ll go back on that because once consumers, once patients have a taste of the convenience andof the experience itself, I don’t see them going backwards.
I do think hospitals will think about their supply chain differently. The name of the game in supply chain was always ‘just in time supply’ and making sure that you didn’t keep too much of an inventory.
But I think this has made most hospitals think about, well that may be fine, but then you’ve got to be able to tap on a whole lot more capacity in your supply chain pretty quickly in the event you face an emergency.
I think this will change the whole world, but it’s this notion that we’re all in it together. I do think there’s more of that. I see more systems working together. I see more folks working together.
I think going to large, crowded kinds of environments, even after we’re on the other side of COVID, I think people will exercise a little more caution before they’re going to the big venues.
I think people will be a lot more careful around things like hand hygiene, keeping surfaces clean and, and covering their mouths if they’re coughing or sneezing.
George Hager Jr, CEO of Genesis HealthCare: ‘Our industry will be much better prepared for the next pandemic.’
We will make sure in our emergency planning that we have a greater ability to cohort patients and isolate patients upon admission that are potentially COVID-positive or are impacted by whatever the next pandemic is, so that we can do a better job – a more effective job – of protecting that part of our population that is already frail and compromised in the skilled nursing setting from those affected by the virus.
We have at least five facilities that are dedicated COVID-only buildings. We are admitting directly from the hospital patients that have tested positive for COVID-19. Concerns you have here, especially in your hotspots, is that the hospital beds get backed up, and there needs to be a discharge source that is a protected and safe site of service for those patients that tested positive but are stable.
Our industry will be much better prepared for the next pandemic, and we will be able to react much more quickly, to create and establish those dedicated units that are isolated from the rest of a population that is congregating in an institutional setting.
We have a segment of our business that we call PowerBack, which was constructed more recently to handle a short-term, more therapy-oriented population. They’re all private rooms. The common space is much larger. The clinical capabilities in these buildings are typically much higher, with a much greater presence of physicians and physician-extender type of clinical skill. The average length of stay in those buildings is 15 to 20 days.
We know that if we have a pending crisis, what we could do now empty those buildings out very quickly and have them ready – in relatively short notice – to accept affected people by any infectious disease or virus.
David Feinberg, the head of Google Health: ‘Access to the right information, at the right time, can save lives.’
We learn a lot during times like this. It can help us break through the status quo and support efficiencies and innovations that mean better care and outcomes.
For example, it’s amazing to see the quick and massive rise of virtual care, coupled with regulatory support for doctors practicing across state lines, that have arisen due to providers reducing or ceasing in-person visits.
The pandemic has also brought to the forefront the usefulness of data towards anticipating healthcare needs and resource allocation. Just as public health authorities cast a wide net to understand COVID-19 and what public and environmental factors may help in predicting its spread, there will be a greater appreciation for how data could also help communities respond to other conditions – whether that’s cancer, heart disease, diabetics, poor nutrition, and more.
I think that the industry will come away with more interest, and higher expectations.
We think about how we can bring the best of Google expertise, people and technologies to help connect people to the right resources when they’re sick, keep them healthy, and solve big healthcare challenges. In times of an emerging global health threat, this means doing things like boosting authoritative content in Search and YouTube tailored to people’s information needs around the pandemic and helping people connect to safe and convenient virtual care.
Access to the right information, at the right time, can save lives. In addition to Google’s Cloud offerings for healthcare, we’ve also been able to stand up new initiatives to help public health officials respond to COVID-19.
I am particularly proud of our COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports which uses anonymized, aggregated location data to help officials make decisions to prevent further spread of the virus.
William Fleming, president of Humana’s clinical and pharmacy solutions segment: ‘We need to take telehealth to the next level.’
The transformational power of telehealth was steadily rising prior to the pandemic, but its usage has significantly accelerated. If a primary care practice wasn’t using telehealth six weeks ago, chances are it is well-versed in it today.
At Humana, we’ve been on the telehealth journey for some time, but we need to take telehealth to the next level so we can improve both health and health care.
Now, more than ever, the general public understands and can empathize with things like social isolation. We’ve long identified this as a social determinant of health that, in particular, affects seniors in our society. But today, it’s more real for many of us.
Going forward, we will be able to work in a different, and hopefully more accepting, way to provide whole-person health care – care that encompasses both body and mind, taking into account the many social factors that play a significant role in our overall health and well-being.
The world needs to be prepared for the potential re-emergence of the coronavirus, either later this year or in 2021. We have a real-world case for change, and it starts with industry and government enhancing our innovation and readiness. This will enable us to build stronger partnerships that will help physicians and other clinicians protect people from the virus as we race towards new treatments and a vaccine.
We have all been reminded about the importance of caring for one another.
Stephen Klasko, CEO of Jefferson Health: ‘There will be a trillion dollar spent on transforming how healthcare is delivered.’
We had invested about $50 million in telehealth back in 2013, and there was very little interest. The supply was there, but the demand wasn’t there.
We went up from an average of 15 tele-health appointments a day to 3,200 a day. We had the bandwidth and now everybody wants it.
We’ll start to see that people realize that you could do just about everything you could do in an in-person visit. It’s a lot easier. You don’t have to pay for parking, sit in the waiting room.
Ten years from now, we’ll look at it as archaic, that the way we did healthcare is you would go once a year to a doctor’s office to get a physical.
[For the industry] it’s going to be a really, really, really tough rebound. I think we’re going to have a hangover. I know we’re going to have a hangover there for a couple of years in capital spent.
Providers will look for alternative sources of revenue and a lot of those things will be in partnerships with transforming how healthcare is delivered.
I think there will be a trillion dollar spent on transforming how healthcare is delivered. And I think the smart providers will say, well, wait a second. If I’m getting killed on the provision side of the revenue equation and there’s going to be this whole industry making $1 trillion with IPOs and they’re changing healthcare, I want to be part of that.
You’ll [also] start to see some horizontal mergers or partnerships that, that have started to occur in the payer world.
One of the things I worry about in healthcare is what we’re calling the crisis of sequelae, that people will be afraid to go into the hospital even once they are allowed to get their mammograms or to get their colonoscopies. My concern is you’d have more people dying because they want a year without getting any screening.
Gregory Adams, CEO of Kaiser Permanente: ‘We’ve been challenged by this virus to re-imagine work.’
This organization, as a healthcare organization, as a health plan, as an integrated delivery system, has always been committed to providing quality healthcare for our members. But it’s also had this connection to the communities and to improving the health of our members.
The pandemic and this virus raises the interconnectedness of our delivery system with the community and this need to really own the health of the community. In some ways it’s expanding our mission in a very real way, kind of beyond the walls of our organizations.
We’ve been challenged by this virus to re-imagine work. We have thousands of employees that are working from home. For some of our employees, it’s hugely satisfying to be working at home. So we will need to understand: What does that mean going forward?
We’d been preaching, leading toward, developing plans to, increase virtual visits, seeing them as more cost effective, a way to have greater consumer satisfaction.
Almost overnight we’ve gone from 18% virtual visits to 80%. That may not be where we stay long-term. We’ve also had a strategy to accelerate the adoption of mail-order pharmacy. About 30% to upwards of 60% of our prescriptions are now being delivered to our members and our patients’ home.
We are deciding how to hardwire innovations and which of these we want to own and be part of our business model going forward.
For members and patients that are not able to come in, especially the elderly with underlying medical conditions, who don’t want their prescriptions delivered through mail-order or can’t, we’ve put in a curbside service. That is another member satisfaction. It’s social distancing, it’s protecting our members, protecting our employees.
Michael Dowling, CEO of Northwell Health: ‘We don’t realize how fortunate we are when times are good.’
It forces you to rethink a lot of the things you typically three months ago talk as normal.
We have figured out how to do things during this crisis and do them more quickly. We were at a point two weeks ago where we were creating 200 extra beds in our hospital every day.
These are tens of thousands of people who were coming in to offices every day and during the crisis we said that they had to stay home and work from home. How many of those people should always work from home?
The receptivity to the telemed way of doing business has been accelerated because of the COVID crisis. That’s a real positive.
The question now is how many of the regulations relaxed by the state and others should never be reinstated?
Staff from multiple disciplines during this crisis worked together. I walk through every ICU in every hospital during the past two weeks. I was out on the floors.
I found on the front lines taking care of COVID patients were some of the cardiac staff. There was all of this cross fertilization of knowledge between the different disciplines. I think we have an openness more so than ever before.
I think we’ll have to do an awful lot more about educating the public about what to do to stay healthy. We’ve been educating them big time over the last month on what to do to stay safe. I think we need to do an awful lot more about educating them on what to do to stay healthy and how to prevent disease from occuring, how to eat well, what nutrition is all about.
Three months ago the economy was booming, everyone was going to work, everyone was out at restaurants and bars and hotels. All of a sudden this small little invisible virus shows up and completely throws everything upside down.
We don’t realize how fortunate we are when times are good.
There should be a major international effort between the major governments led by the US to begin thinking about how do we as a collective globally try to anticipate and prevent issues like this in the future and be better prepared for it.
Mario Schlosser, CEO of Oscar Health: ‘Tying your healthcare to your employer isn’t a great idea when you have a pandemic.’
We started the company because we thought healthcare didn’t have a good experience, certainly health insurance didn’t.Health insurance is a good vantage point from which to rebuild the overarching experience someone has when they get into the healthcare system.
Here we are in the middle of a big healthcare crisis and with lots of uncertainty about where to get care and how to get care and whether it’s okay to go to a doctor’s office in person. For us there’s a couple of things that are very concretely changing right now.
I always thought that the administration of healthcare suffered from very, very slow rollout speeds. That’s why it was still more useful to have a fax machine than a smartphone over the past couple of years in healthcare.
Suddenly everyone in the industry is forced to move much more quickly.
What we now see when we talk to our provider systems and physicians, everyone who’s getting monthly payments for taking risk is generally fine and that money is still flowing. So if you’re a physician practice and you’ve been taking risk and you’ve got capitation for example, then you can manage through these times. If you’re still on a fee for service basis, that becomes much more difficult.
We’re learning that tying your healthcare to your employer isn’t a great idea when you have a pandemic both creating healthcare cost issues, as well as creating unemployment.
This is really going to be catalyst and pushing more individualization and away from this employer-funded healthcare system.
I do think there’ll be a shift in the way we work, more remote, more from home.
Not everyone in the way their daily lives work and their professional lives work has a chance to do that. So I certainly would worry about an increase in inequality coming out of this.
Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer: ‘The pandemic has created a new sense of openness and trust to share early data and novel ideas.’
It’s an extraordinarily difficult time for everyone as the public health challenges posed by COVID- 19 have impacted almost every aspect of our lives.
At Pfizer, it has not been business as usual. We have hyper-focused our efforts and mobilized our resources behind three priorities: the health and safety of our colleagues, the continued supply of our medicines and vaccines, and finding medical and scientific solutions to this crisis.
The dedication and accomplishments of our scientists and global supply colleagues is nothing short of inspiring. And, every area of Pfizer has rapidly transformed the way we work, proving in many instances that the impossible is now possible.
We are all forever changed by what the crisis has demanded from each of us. The sense of purpose, degree of confidence and deeper pride in our work will extend well beyond the pandemic as serving the needs of patients around the world is what we do every day.
Our industry peers, the other pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, have come together like never before. We’re acutely aware that we are all on the same side, and COVID-19 and other diseases are the enemies. The pandemic has created a new sense of openness and trust to share early data and novel ideas to enable the potential discovery and development of future medicines.
We’ve opened doors for one another, and I believe the way we now are working will carry forward into our future.
Rod Hochman, CEO of Providence St. Joseph Health: ‘I would not be getting 50,000 people together until we have a vaccination.’
You’ll continue to have outbreaks until we have a vaccine. Biologically, I can tell you with 100% certainty that will be. Whether they’re waves or ripples are contingent upon how to manage them. I would not be getting 50,000 people together until we have a vaccination.
What we’re looking at with bricks and mortar out of ambulatory care centers and Express Care which can do it all online and through telehealth. Is the government willing to change its model of how it pays for healthcare from fee for service to a virtual model, as well. We’re having those conversations with folks from the government.
But you could see how we could have a world where the way we do primary care changes substantially through the whole country if you’re willing to do that.
It also is going to have implications for the whole long-term care industry, how it’s organized, how it’s regulated and how important it is. We’re seeing that take a tremendous hit.
Think about, there’s 15-20% unemployment and how much Medicaid there is out there. People are not commercially insured anymore and now they’re on Medicaid, and the state governments run out money to pay for Medicaid. What does that mean for healthcare going forward?
There’s this general dynamic between globalization and isolation that we’re seeing. Nothing like a pandemic brings that out. If you’re an optimist, you’re going to say the world is going to work better together particularly around things like healthcare, climate change, food resources. Or it leads to more of an isolationist model where everyone’s for themselves, everyone digs in and puts up their borders.
It also brings out the difference between the haves and the have nots. Even in our own country it shows those chasms between people who have more than others.
Hopefully, people are going to say science is important. And research is important.
Jim Peters, COO of Rite Aid: ‘The virtual world is here to stay’
In terms of how it’s actually changed Rite Aid? Man, where do I even begin? It’s certainly been an unprecedented challenge. It really highlighted the core of our focus, which is that our pharmacists and associates are on the front lines and play a critical role in healthcare.
We have accelerated dramatically our e-commerce and, frankly, overall consumer experience initiatives.
Who would have guessed that people like my mother would be sitting in an a condo in Florida accessing telehealth, accessing e-commerce.
For us, we’ve seen our e-commerce business actually be strained because we’re seeing demand that at times reached, literally 28 to 30 times our, our typical peak demand pre-COVID.
Telehealth is another one that I think is has fundamentally been accelerated for us. We have scores of nurse practitioners accessible historically through retail clinics that we sent home. We rapidly deployed back to our Rite Aid virtual care model where we’re now actually seeing patients every single day in ways that we never did before.
Unfortunately, I don’t believe it’s a once and done. If we don’t offer contactless interaction points with our consumers, we don’t offer them the opportunity to stay home and consume our brand, whether that’s through commerce or tele-health or digital refills, I think we’ve failed as an industry.
Going forward I think that not only Rite Aid, not only those in our industry, but those within a broad healthcare ecosystem will have a newfound kind of respect for the importance of that rainy day bucket of supplies and inventory.
Practically, I think that the virtual world is here to stay. It may not mean that everybody will continue to work at home that can work at home, but I think working at home, dialoguing at home, balancing your life in your life in ways that recognize that, you may be in tight quarters or periods of time throughout the year.
Paul Hudson, CEO of Sanofi: ‘It has changed how we work, largely for the better.’
The whole company has stepped up to fight COVID-19. The challenge from COVID will be how we maintain the gains we’ve made in efficiency and focus. It has changed how we work, largely for the better. We are less hierarchical, and more purpose-driven in our ways of working.
We have never signed so many partnerships as during these last two months: with academia, start-ups, government agencies, [non-governmental organizations], and even with one of our competitors (GSK). The pandemic has clearly reminded us about the complexity of biology and the need to share expertise and resources to accelerate the search for solutions.
The pandemic has placed the critical link between human health and economic growth front and center. But COVID in itself will not change the world as much as our response to it at individual, community and societal levels.
In the face of the crisis, academia, scientists and industry have moved to find a solution at an incredible pace. This is not a surprise, as human beings are wired to pay attention to immediate threats. But now we have to apply the same sense of urgency to other pressing but less apparent threats, such as climate change. Crises do not just neatly follow one after the other. They add up.
When things return to a certain level of normalcy, it will also be important to draw lessons and find solutions to the challenges people faced at home while in confinement.
When we draw policies to ensure equality in the workplace, we should remember that inequalities do not disappear at home, where women in particular often carry a heavier burden than men.
It is also clear-and I will lead by example-that the one-business meeting trip will disappear. People will be more comfortable with virtual meeting solutions and travel will become something we do when it’s absolutely necessary and efficient.
Doug Ingram, CEO of Sarepta Therapeutics: ‘Once we address the healthcare crisis, we should have a substantial rebound.’
This is primarily a healthcare crisis. The economic impact is an artifact of conscious decisions that we’re making to address this pandemic. Once we address the healthcare crisis, we should have a substantial rebound economically.
For 20 or 30 years, we’ve been developing technologies that allow us to work together virtually, to stay connected virtually, to work from distances and probably to empower, more flexible, schedules and the like.
And I’ve been among those people that have been skeptical that we should broadly embrace it.
I had this belief that we really needed to be in person to be nationally effective. And here we are with a forced society-wide experiment on that exact issue, and I think I was wrong.
While there are enormous challenges that arise from this pandemic, we rapidly moved in early to mid March to work from home. We are getting stuff done. We are advancing our mission, we are progressing, we are hitting our milestones.
I think people are, at least at Sarepta, surprised at how much we can get done efficiently and stay connected with one another.
I really think there’s a place where the office of the past starts to become an anachronism.
When you’re working from a distance and you’re working virtually, you’re forced to stop traveling. It may be the case that we can do less travel, that we can get more done, travel less, that we’re more thoughtful about what the live meetings need to be.
We may get through this and realize there are things that we thought we had to do that we don’t have to do, that there are meetings we had to be at that we don’t have to be at, that there are conferences we don’t have to be at.
I think there may be three big impacts on biotech as a result of this pandemic.
We as society should have a renewed respect and love for science and should have a renewed respect and pride in our biopharmaceutical industry. We all should realize how valuable innovation is and we should nurture it and realize that it’s fragile. And the third thing is I think there’s going to be learnings – and this is the way we develop therapies – in trying to apply those in other areas too, to more efficiently and faster develop therapies.
Reshma Kewalramani, CEO of Vertex Pharmaceuticals: ‘I see the world becoming bigger again.’
We’ve needed to adapt and innovate to overcome new challenges, such as finding solutions to conduct clinical trials virtually so we don’t put additional strain on the medical system or unnecessarily put patients at additional safety risks.
Discovering these new skills and ways of working will certainly benefit us in the future. We now see what’s possible and what we’re capable of when we work remotely, so we’re actively incorporating these learnings into our own policies and practices at Vertex.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the industry starts to operate more virtually, leveraging telemedicine and virtual clinical trials. We’ve proven it’s possible and there are likely benefits to patients and the health care system.
I also think the COVID-19 crisis has given people who may not have had a lot of visibility into biotech, a view into this world. Whether the topic is diagnostic testing, vaccines or therapeutics, science is front and center in everyone’s living room every night, and I think the general appreciation for science, innovation, and biotechnology, has increased dramatically.
The world had become a very small place. Until recently, it was not unusual for a businessperson to travel across the Atlantic to meet a customer, or for a student to study abroad for a semester or for an entire four years, or for a consumer to walk into a grocery store and purchase cheese from France or pasta from Italy.
I see that changing. I see the world becoming bigger again. We will have to adjust to the new normal.