The coronavirus pandemic has presented unprecedented circumstances for all industries. In healthcare, professionals are working to adapt and overcome various challenges as they arrive. While the pandemic has brought fear, panic, isolation, and hardship, it has also begun to serve as a catalyst for much-needed collaboration and innovation within the healthcare industry.
As the result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the social distancing orders in place, the healthcare industry has been forced to adapt to new norms and standards. While this shift came without alternative options, it has presented new opportunities to integrate innovation into healthcare. Remote consultations with patients are necessary in order to limit contact with others, but moving forward, high-risk patients may also benefit from this practice as it keeps both parties safe while still ensuring the patients receive proper care. Remote meetings may also help to conserve medical supplies.
In addition to the potential for widespread technological innovation, the matter of data collection, analysis, and collaboration also presents the potential for a prosperous future in healthcare. Data from doctor visits, clinical trials, and even wearable technology has already proven to be useful for the healthcare industry; collaborating with this data through mutual access and open discussion could lend itself to greater discoveries and advancements in the development of diagnostics, treatments, and cures.
Public Innovation Challenges
In an effort to create or identify the best practices and tools to combat the pandemic, institutions around the globe have begun to issue challenges that promote innovation and collaboration. The Seoul Institute of Technology, for example, has established a challenge that encourages individuals to identify the best mask design and construct other measures of defending individuals against respiratory infections; in the U.S., America Makes (alongside the Department of Veteran Affairs) has challenged innovators to create and manufacture 3D-printed masks that not only fit different face shapes but also improve upon efforts to seal the mask to skin, thereby protecting wearers from airborne contagions.
Other challenges come from well-known institutions such as NASA, NATO, IBM, and the U.S. Army, and other innovative institutions are also encouraging participants to collaborate and work toward the development and integration of solutions, treatments, preventative measures, and more.
Rather than relying on the knowledge and resources already available to the healthcare industry, outsourcing and collaborating with others in various fields with different skill sets is proving to be an effective way to combat a global crisis. This practice could then serve as a model for the future that encourages the healthcare industry to expand its reach in order to acquire the most effective, cost-efficient, and proactive practices and tools.
In addition to efforts of mass outreach, various organizations, institutions, and nonprofits have also banded together in an effort to combat the pandemic. One example of this is the Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV), headed by the National Institutes of Health, that brings together various leading pharmaceutical companies, national agencies like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as international partners like the European Medicines Agency (EMA). This massive partnership plans to maintain a collaborative approach to this pandemic in efforts to tackle vaccine development and testing, determine appropriate regulations, and better prepare for future pandemics.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has also played a significant role in promoting the development of COVID-19 treatments. The foundation has partnered with Wellcome and Mastercard to back the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator to sponsor research and development of drugs to combat the pandemic. This accelerator also serves to minimize barriers that could inhibit the development, testing, and manufacturing of a vaccine or drug. The foundation has also worked to attract and encourage the collaboration of multiple life-science and pharmaceutical companies; through organizational and communicative efforts as well as financial contributions, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation aims to promote collaboration across the healthcare industry. Generally speaking, the goal of this collaboration is to draw upon the information, knowledge, and resources each company or institution has in order to craft a solution that best serves the global community.
While the current global circumstances are far from ideal in many ways, the pandemic has forced healthcare to embrace innovation, evolution, and collaboration in order to best tackle the problems at hand and identify the best solutions. With collaborative efforts, the demolition of barriers, and an increase in innovation initiatives, the healthcare industry may have a better chance of combatting the pandemic and moving towards a more innovative and collaborative future.