On Friday, May 22 GPHAP students met virtually to hear from an interdisciplinary panel of experts. The panel discussion organized by the first-year GPHAP Brown Fellows was focused on “COVID-19: Opportunities Missed and Lessons Learned for Future Pandemic Preparedness” and incorporated economic, policy, and provider perspectives on the factors affecting to the COVID-19 response. During the event, the panelists shared thoughts on the factors that may have been missed in analysis and reporting of the pandemic, the health disparities that have been a factor in the crisis, and how interdisciplinary teams are needed to address health emergencies.

The panelists were:

  • Nicole Gier, LCSW, Social Work Manager, Comprehensive Care, Community and Culture Program, UChicago Medicine
  • Joshua Gottlieb, PhD, Associate Professor, Harris School of Public Policy
  • Colleen Grogan, PhD, Professor, School of Social Service Administration, Academic Director, GPHAP
  • Monica Peek, MD, MPH, Section of General Internal Medicine, Associate Professor of Medicine, UChicago Medicine
  • Panelist bio available on the Brown Fellows Event Flyer

Here are three takeaways from the panelists:

  • Planning and operating with excess capacity available 

    Professors Joshua Gottlieb and Colleen Grogan discussed the market and policy factors that led to a healthcare system that is optimized for controlling costs, leading to limited excess capacity in the case of an emergency. Relative to other systems, the US has relied more on a competitive market to provide healthcare services. In this context, the value of excess capacity may be undervalued. This pandemic has raised important questions about how to best prepare for future pandemics. As Professor Grogan said, “How much should we rely on the marketplace vs. the government? It’s a question every healthcare system grapples with.” 

  • Access Needs to be Discussed in Shift to Telehealth 

    Monica Peek and Nicole Gier discussed their personal experience providing care for patients with telehealth services during the pandemic. There have been many positives opportunities to shift quick follow-up care to a telehealth platform, which can also benefit patients to more easily access care outside of a pandemic setting. However, it is important to discuss the issue of access to electronic devices for patients. According to Dr. Peek, 36% of patients with the most needs for chronic care are not making it their virtual visits. According to Gier, a social worker, building the relationship and trust with a patient in a virtual setting is hard. As the world shifts towards more digital services, it will be important to see the innovations and best practices that arise to combat these issues.

  • Opportunity to Elevate Innovative Models into Mainstream 

    Given the importance of social distancing and sheltering in place, the discussion around addressing social determinants of health, especially housing insecurity, has been brought to the forefront of the pandemic response discussion. The pandemic has elevated novel approaches to addressing these issues, such as allowing Medicaid funds be used to pay for housing support. As the pandemic response eases, hopefully some of these novel innovations that have been raised to the national dialogue will continue to be implemented across states.