Collaboration: The Key to Fighting COVID-19 and Improving Patient Care Overall

In an opening session presentation at AMCP 2021, Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, MD, a former chief medical officer at Pfizer, Inc., declared that the time for change is here. 

“The U.S. health care system has been poised for a major change for the last several years,” she said during her April 13 opening general session at the AMCP 2021 virtual sessions. “We pay much more for health care than any other wealthy country in the world, and, that said, still do not have the kinds of results or outcomes that we would hope to have.”

The COVID-19 pandemic, she said, has served to highlight the urgent need systemic change in the American health care system. Dr. Lewis-Hall noted some changes already occurring within the system, including emphasis on service and customer centricity; a reliance on data for decision-making; improvements in collection, analytics, and application; the integration of technology; and a focus on collaboration. Dr. Lewis-Hall emphasized that patient centricity—placing the patient at the center of each transaction and discussion—should be the focus of the care professional.  

The trend towards more collaboration has been helpful in turning around other industries, Dr. Lewis-Hall noted, and will likely be key in health care as well. Dr. Lewis-Hall praised what she described as an unprecedented level of collaboration during the pandemic, exemplified by partnerships where participants shared expertise and information to close care gaps.

“If we think about our response as a health care community, it was nothing short of heroic,” she said. “What we did personally and collectively in the health care arena is spectacular. […] I expect that a similar all-hands-on-deck collaboration is going to be what we need if we really want a health care system that has a response to some of these longstanding vexing questions on health outcomes.”

Dr. Lewis-Hall also expressed her satisfaction and even amazement at the number of “medi-collaborations” that suddenly grew during the pandemic. In these arrangements, people worked together to create partnerships to advance therapeutics and advance vaccines. Citizens formed community collaboratives comprised of faith-based groups, sports-based groups, academic institutions, and health plans. Individuals representing all different parts of the community joined together to help as many people as possible. 

Dr. Lewis-Hall also addressed the issue of racial disparity in health care, which is one of AMCP’s strategic priorities. She offered her perspective on how managed care pharmacy can help and believes that the best way for obtaining information is by direct engagement with the patient.

“One of the things that we have to do is to become patient-centric enough to get that deep customer insight,” she said. “Only then will we really be able to understand patient needs.”

She concluded by imploring the attendees to consider the opportunity for change in the health care system at large and to work to make it happen.

“We have an opportunity to design a system that has the patient squarely in the middle,” she said. “This will lead to a health care system that truly makes the difference that we want: better patient outcomes, improved wellness, and improved health.”

Lewis Hall F. Keynote Address. Opening General Session. Presented at AMCP 2021; April 12-16, 2021.