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After COVID-19: Priorities for Health System Transformation

Penn Nursing’s Mary Naylor, PhD, R, FAAN, the Marian S. Ware Professor in Gerontology and Director of the NewCourtland Center for Transitions and Health, and co-chair of the Culture Inclusion & Equity Action Collaborative—one of the four collaboratives under the National Academy of Medicine’s Leadership Consortium that convened experts and stakeholders across nine sectors of health, health care, and biomedical research to review how each sector responded to COVID-19, identify challenges encountered in combating the pandemic, and outline opportunities to reinforce, revitalize, and transform the health system.

These insights are being released as nine NAM Perspectives discussion papers throughout 2021, and then bundled into a NAM Special Publication titled Emerging Stronger After COVID-19: Priorities for Health System Transformation, which is scheduled to be released in Spring 2022. The NAM Special Publication will include all 9 previously published papers and a new concluding chapter that reviews cross-cutting themes and opportunities from the individual papers.

The seventh paper in this series – which Naylor co-led along with Frederick Isasi, Executive Director of Families USA – focused on the experience and needs of patients, families, and communities, is available now. Patients, Families, and Communities COVID-19 Impact Assessment: Lessons Learned and Compelling Needs reviews the impact and implications of COVID-19 on patients, families, and communities, offer perspectives on the health system’s failures and opportunities for change, and elevate the direct experiences of patients, families, and communities in their own words.

“Patients, families, and communities are the foundation of the entire health and health care system,” said Isasi. “Every health care CEO, clinician, and public health worker are also patients, part of families, and embedded in communities. They are the clients we serve and those the system was built for. COVID-19 showed that this system needs to be reconceived and rebuilt to truly center patients, families, and communities; provide care and allow for well-being that truly serves communities; and ensure that health and health care is accessible to all.”

The paper identifies challenges facing patients, families, and communities prior to COVID-19, new and emerging issues during the pandemic, and outlines five priorities for transformational change after COVID-19, including facilitating engagement; building and restoring trust; prioritizing investment in solutions to advance health equity; realigning care approaches; and examining critical intersections and implementing solutions between patients, families, and communities and other sectors.

“The priority actions identified in all of the other papers in this series are absolutely necessary to transform the health and health care system but will not achieve their goal without an explicit and sustained focus on improving the experience of patients, families, and communities within the system,” said Naylor. “COVID-19 provides an opportunity for true transformation in how we deliver health and health care in this country – we cannot let it pass us by.”