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Many of us want to leave 2020 behind and are already looking ahead to next year—specifically, to the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. But as this year comes to a close, we should take a moment to pause and reflect on the lessons we can learn from the past several months. Surescripts CEO Tom Skelton recently sat down with POLITICO CEO Patrick Steel to share his perspective on this during a POLITICO virtual program.

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Watch this: Battling Information Chaos in a Public Health Crisis
  1. Health crises can serve as accelerators of innovation.

    When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, health systems were required to send COVID-19 case reports so they could track the spread of the virus. Although these reports are critical, they must be submitted on paper, so it was one more administrative burden for an already stressed healthcare system. Surescripts looked at our tools and realized Clinical Direct Messaging could be repurposed to digitize these COVID e-case reports. This innovation allowed for the transfer of COVID-19 information in an automated fashion, rather than relying on fax machines and scanning. Health systems have now submitted millions of these case reports digitally instead of with archaic tools.

  2. Information sharing can help make sure all patients are cared for during a health crisis.

    When you think back to the pandemic's early days, our top concerns were about where people could get tested, what personal protective equipment was available, and how to get these things to the right places. Once we started managing those challenges, we then addressed another critical issue: many Americans (people who didn't have COVID-19) still needed care and help managing their health. We met patients' needs by transforming the patient-provider experience with tools like telehealth, e-prescribing and more. But for those tools to be successful, information sharing needed to be secure, timely, accurate, relevant and accessible. A secure and trusted information sharing network during times of crises is critical in making this possible.

  3. Private and public collaboration is crucial for public health.

    Another lesson learned during this pandemic is that private firms can partner with the government at all levels to improve public health and that outreach is critical to start this collaboration. "We did the necessary outreach to understand what information the federal government, state governments and local agencies needed so we could help pull all of that together," Tom shared. Through this process, Surescripts discovered that people were open to change and innovation that allowed for increased collaboration.

  4. We can remain positive.

    "It can be challenging to be optimistic during a pandemic," Tom admitted. "But when you look at how far we've come in terms of information sharing, the engagement between federal agencies and private industry, and adaptation to meet the needs of the patient, that agility and innovation should give us all some comfort. As we go forward, there are ways for us to deal with these types of challenges, and if we stick and work together, great things will happen."

Watch Tom and Patrick's conversation to learn more about how information sharing is a key aspect of getting through this pandemic, or read our recent report about how health IT is accelerating in this moment.

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