How coronavirus offers a glimpse of future challenges and opportunities for healthcare

As a results of the pandemic, we will almost certainly see rapid advancements in healthcare innovation

By Ian Chuang, MD - April 3, 2020  3 mins
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What a difference a few weeks, a few days or even a few hours make in our globally connected world. Coronavirus continues to have a snowball effect across global events and on healthcare across multiple streams. Although healthcare has always been local at the point of delivery, international phenomena will inevitably take their toll on even the most robust systems. When this happens, it is possible for local models and practices to benefit if they are able to learn and assimilate knowledge and best care standards from experiences worldwide.

This is both the challenge and opportunity of a worldwide inter-related healthcare ecosystem — and it is the exact situation we currently find ourselves in.

Reimagining innovation

As a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic, we will almost certainly see rapid advancements in healthcare innovation in the near future.

At a time when people all over the world are demanding up-to-the-minute information around the clock, there’s never been a more opportune moment to explore and evangelise the potential of shared data. By combining research with real-world evidence, we’re adding to our collective understanding. By showing how data is guiding governmental responses and informing the development of treatments and potentially vaccines, we’re highlighting the value of collaborative working. By reporting progress in real time to the public, we’re building the trust and confidence of both healthcare providers and the public.

Defining new standards of care in real time

The ability to easily access, share, translate and transfer real-time research will be essential to informing our response to COVID-19. Our understanding — aided by incremental discoveries — is evolving and refining at such speed, it does not have the luxury of staying static or analog. This gives rises to a virtuous knowledge circle. Simultaneously, as research is vetted through peer review, it is required by clinicians on the frontline, but it’s only useful if the information can be translated into practical patient care guidelines and executable standards of care. The solution, then, is to loop clinicians into the circle via embedded care plans and treatment orders that can keep pace with the evolving understanding.

Empowering knowledge with technology

Coronavirus is novel, and so we do not have any precedents from which to draw experience. Equally, we don’t have preconceived treatment habits or standards. Inconsistencies and variation in care will therefore arise as clinicians do their best, unless we look to clinical decision support systems facilitated by machine learning to guide us.

Globally, healthcare organizations are having to change their processes and update information in real time to meet the needs of patients in this pandemic. To ensure they have the latest evidence-based resources, Elsevier colleagues continue to develop and update various COVID-19 resources, making them freely available. They are being used by clinicians worldwide as they strive to deliver the highest quality patient care. You can find these resources in Clinical Solutions’ Coronavirus (COVID-19) Clinical Toolkit and Elsevier’s Novel Coronavirus Information Center.

This is a stress test certainly, but the learnings we can take forward will help us shape a more agile and sustainable healthcare system for the future – one in which knowledge is regularly harvested from multiple sources, routinely peer reviewed, translated and transferred into clinical workflows, and reliably used to optimize treatment decisions and improve patient outcomes.

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Written by

Ian Chuang, MD

Written by

Ian Chuang, MD

Dr. Ian Chuang is the global Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for Elsevier's EMEALAAP Health business. Dr. Chuang’s focus at Elsevier is collaborating with healthcare leaders to improve Healthcare Information Technology (HCIT) adoption, especially as it relates to clinical decision support and improving health system decisions and processes of care to improve outcomes.

Dr. Chuang’s experience spans the entire care continuum, including applied healthcare informatics, controlled medical terminology, knowledge representation, CDS and analytics. Prior to joining Elsevier, he held roles at both strategic level management of healthcare systems and physician leadership, and hands-on implementation of process optimization at the point of care. His insights span the full spectrum of delivering knowledge-driven care, whether capturing and structuring data, analytics and predictive modelling, or CDS functionalities intersecting with clinical workflow.

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