Healthcare leaders pinpoint supply chain, data sharing improvements to prepare for next pandemic

Stronger public-private coordination on data sharing and bolstering the supply chain are critical to getting ready for the next pandemic, a panel of experts found during a summit Thursday.

The Healthcare Leadership Council and Duke Margolis Center for Health Policy held a joint summit Thursday that included more than 20 public and private sector leaders across the healthcare industry to discuss draft recommendations on how to prepare for the next pandemic.

The recommendations are expected to be finalized (PDF) and sent to Congress and the White House early next year.

A key theme was to bolster coordination among public and private partners. One of the recommendations was to create a national strategy and road map for product innovation, rapid production and distribution to ensure a robust supply chain. The COVID-19 pandemic caused massive disruption to a medical equipment supply chain heavily reliant on foreign manufacturers.

“There was a fair amount of counter-productive confusion and sometimes conflicting guidance,” said Susan DeVore, CEO of healthcare improvement company Premier, during the summit.

The government needs to lean more on private sector input that can help define which drugs or equipment are critical and to establish standards for stockpiling, one of the recommendations said.

Another recommendation was to establish new ways to shore up the medical supply chain, including using a virtual stockpile that employs a “flow-through” inventory model that can replenish newer stock as the older stock moves into distribution, the report said.

“Medical products that are candidates for a virtual stockpile approach will have sufficient production capacity, so that a portion of capacity can be stored in an ongoing way,” the report added.

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Another key draft recommendation was to explore how to improve coordination of federal and state regulations on data sharing and privacy to ensure quick access.

“When there is a catastrophic situation, both public and private sectors need immediate access to data to enable swift response and decision making,” said Judy Faulkner, CEO of Epic. “Too much of this has been done by hand, and too much of this comes to those who need to make decisions too late."

The panel also felt that there needed to be national privacy legislation that protects health data but allows essential dissemination during a public health emergency.

“This type of national privacy legislation should supersede any individual state processes that might slow the data,” said Emad Rizk, M.D., chairman and CEO of healthcare analytics company Cotiviti.

In addition, major improvements to health IT infrastructure should be made across national, state and local levels, the report said.

The government should also explore better ways to collect and disseminate data, including outlining which data are needed to inform disaster response efforts. Another recommendation was to create a 21st-century public health early warning system that is able to collect and report a uniform set of data from inpatient ambulatory electronic health records, one recommendation said.

Another batch of recommendations focused on improving care delivery. A central proposal was to create a uniform policy to enable cross-state licensure so a doctor can provide care in another state they are not licensed in during an emergency.

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The recommendation focuses on a major issue at the onset of the pandemic when certain parts of the country became COVID-19 hot spots and some providers were not able to travel to help due to licensure restrictions.

Other leaders that attended the summit included Calvin Schmidt, senior vice president and worldwide leader of government affairs and policy for Johnson & Johnson; Neil DeCrescenzo, president and CEO of Change Healthcare; Don Rucker, M.D., national coordinator for health IT; and Chip Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospitals.