Positives in the Pandemic?

Like other leaders in global collaborative health, Johns Hopkins is grappling with painful truths as we respond to COVID-19. The pandemic has severely limited our patients’ capacity to travel across international borders, and it’s heart wrenching not being able to provide the clinical care that could change ― or save ― their lives.

While health care inequities have long been an issue, the pandemic also has spotlighted the stark disparities between compromised, low-income populations and other groups in terms of access to quality medical treatment.

It would be easy to despair. Instead, let’s choose to focus on opportunities for much-needed change in how health care is delivered locally and globally. COVID-19 may be making us physically distant, but this is an unparalleled opportunity to become scientifically closer.

At Johns Hopkins, we are more energized than ever to help other institutions in setting up new service lines and expanding clinical areas. We are looking at additional ways to leverage our collaborations to expand low-cost, high-quality options for health care in other countries and communities around the world.

We are leaning in to adopt technologies that can expand access to medical education and health care delivery. In my earlier years, I used to crisscross several cities in Asia doing training programs, but it’s so much easier to share best practices using today’s technologies. U.S. organizations are rapidly embracing telehealth, and I think the adoption of these innovations represents significant new ways to transfer knowledge between our experts and their counterparts at our global affiliates.

As one example, since the outbreak of COVID-19, we have hosted timely, topical webinars in which we share what we have learned in our response and how our global affiliates can apply these best practices in their environment. In fact, our partner Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare is exploring possibilities to work with us to sharpen health care projection models in Saudi Arabia ― important work we perhaps could replicate in other countries, too.

I also think it’s important not to limit this conversation to what can be done between health care systems. This is the time to encourage collaborations between health care entities and major technology groups. I'm talking about the Microsofts of the world, the Googles, the Amazons and the Ubers. Bring them on board!

Scientific studies show that isolated health care facilities are not going to solve the issues we face today. We need to work together with other health systems and tech innovators to create an ecosystem that not only improves clinical services at specific points of care, but also promotes health and wellbeing in sound, sustainable ways.