The University of Miami presented its ninth annual Business of Healthcare conference virtually on Friday, October 30. This program is produced annually by the Miami Herbert Business School Center for Health Management and Policy. The business school is renowned for its Health Executive MBA, the highest ranked (by U.S. News & World Report), longest running health executive MBA in the region. Aside from opening/closing remarks and scheduled breaks, the conference consisted of three principal segments labeled Keynote Panels:
- After the Pandemic: Building a Better Normal
- Health Care Access, People & Policy, COVID-19 & Beyond
- Diversity & Inclusion: Providers, Patients & Community
Immediately following the opening remarks, the program kicked off with the first keynote panel of Julio Frenk, MD, President, University of Miami and Ashish Jha, MD, Dean, Brown University School of Public Health. Karoline Mortensen, PhD, Associate Professor, Health Management and Policy, Miami Herbert Busines
s School acted as moderator and managed the Q&A between the panelists and the live, online audience. The discussion, focusing on the post-COVID world and how to get there, was forward looking and refreshingly positive.
Dr. Jha noted the rapid decline in the COVID death rate. At the onset of the pandemic there was a 30-50% chance that a hospitalized COVID patient would die. Currently, that number is vastly reduced – less than 10% – in large part due to effective therapeutics. We were also a bit lucky, according to Dr. Jha. COVID-19 is similar to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which first emerged in China almost two decades ago. The learning curve for treating the novel coronavirus was less steep because clinicians had prior experience with SARS.
“Pandemics historically are watersheds,” according to Dr. Frenk. This means that the transformation of our healthcare delivery system – already well under way – will be fast-tracked by the lessons learned in this experience. And policy wonks and an “enlightened” Health and Human Services (HHS) are not the main instruments of this change. “Society will drive it,” Dr. Frenk stated.
Dr. Jha pointed to the rapid ramp up of telemedicine and the potential for virtual encounters to redefine the roles of doctors and nurses. Clinician and healthcare administration education can be re-imagined as well due to virtual learning opportunities. As an example, he pointed out that digital communications platforms such as Zoom could facilitate classes led by professors from different universities, located geographically apart.
Another positive is an elevated societal view of healthcare workers. Both panelists agreed that the “hero” status accorded to physicians because of the pandemic could translate into better compensation, especially for primary care physicians.
In terms of coping with the crisis and preparing for better, new normal. Dr. Frenk discussed leadership, investment and trust. It was mid-June when the University of Miami announced it would reopen its campus for the fall semester. At the time, it was a controversial decision; many believed the campus should remain closed. Dr. Frenk, who served as the Minister of Health of Mexico from 2000 to 2006, was adamant that reopening was the right call and best way forward. “We followed the science and followed the evidence. Then we invested millions to prepare the campus for a safe reopening,” he stated. “We trusted our students and faculty to follow the protocols,” he added.
Unprecedented has been the theme for 2020. And for most of us, it will be nice to put this year into the rearview mirror. Two top doctors from academia offered a hopeful glimpse of a more normal new normal and prepared the online audience for the next segments of the program.