The COVID-19 pandemic will end.
Our support for healthcare systems and patients won’t.
As new waves of coronavirus cases wash over the world, an unsettling sense of déjà vu takes hold. Once again, hospitals are filling with COVID-19 patients. Frontline healthcare workers are exhausted. And yet, there is hope on the horizon. Each day, scientists unravel more mysteries behind the virus. Armed with knowledge and better access to critical medical supplies and tools like telehealth, clinicians improve their care and treatment of COVID-19 patients. The vaccines being rolled out across the world are a scientific triumph and represent our best chance of ending the pandemic. But the discovery of new, highly contagious variants of the virus will require continued vigilance. As the leaders of the World Health Organization recently acknowledged, we are caught in a pandemic paradox of hope and hardship.
With a quick jab to the arm, Margaret Keenan, a 90-year-old grandmother from Coventry, England became one of the first people in the world to receive a clinically authorized, fully tested vaccine for COVID-19. The former jewelry shop clerk said it was a privilege. “It's the best early birthday present I could wish for because it means I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the new year after being on my own for most of the year."
The pandemic created parallel disasters. One wreaked havoc on the economy. The other exacted its toll on public health. Unfortunately, hospitals bore the brunt of both. How health systems rebound is a chapter in a story still being written. But here’s what we do know: collaboration among healthcare partners is critical to stopping the surge of the virus. Since the pandemic began, Medtronic has been gathering resources, solutions, and best practices and making them available to healthcare leaders through its COVID-19 Recovery Resource Center. In September, Medtronic and Harvard Business Review sponsored a three-part virtual series, bringing together more than 100 executives from some of the top health systems in the United States to share successful strategies in the fight against COVID-19. We are also offering our expertise in areas such as hospital productivity, patient engagement, and remote monitoring and support. We know the road to recovery is a long one, but our healthcare partners aren’t alone on the journey.
Supporting healthcare workers starts with keeping them safe. Medtronic recently donated more than 400,000 N95 surgical masks and 430,000 KN95 respirators for distribution in global COVID-19 hotspots. To date, the company, together with the Medtronic Foundation, has given more than $46 million to COVID-19 relief efforts including food assistance, mental health support, and healthcare worker grants. “As the global pandemic continues to surge, our Mission compels us to help ensure our courageous frontline healthcare workers have adequate protection,” said Noel Colón, Medtronic senior vice president and chief quality officer.
This pandemic is reshaping our world, emphasizing the need for solutions that bridge the divide between healthcare professionals and the technology they rely on to treat patients.— John Liddicoat, M.D., executive vice president and president of the Americas Region, Medtronic
Since the pandemic began, telehealth has been a gamechanger in the fight against COVID-19. Why? Remote care protects both patients and clinicians, while creating efficiencies in the delivery of healthcare. A recent survey of more than 1,600 healthcare providers in the U.S. showed that 70% plan on using virtual care technologies after the current pandemic ends. A number of Medtronic implanted devices can now directly connect to patients’ smartphones, and allow clinicians to remotely check device data without in-person visits.
Our in-hospital remote patient monitoring systems enable clinicians to monitor multiple patients at once, giving administrators the ability to stretch limited staffing resources. Our home-based remote patient monitoring solutions are designed to track symptoms around numerous conditions including respiratory infectious disease, so care teams may intervene if the patient shows signs of decline. These solutions can also help clinicians monitor for deadly secondary infections that can arise as a patient is recovering from COVID-19. One of the best ways we can honor the sacrifices made by healthcare workers is to make sure the patients they care for have the best outcomes possible.
Lockdowns imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 had the unintended consequence of creating backlogs at hospitals around the world. Many were able to work through the cases, but new surges are creating new challenges, especially when it comes to treating patients with chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and kidney disease. Medtronic is working with health system leaders from around the world to develop strategies to limit the amount of time these high-risk patients are in the hospital or keep them home if possible. For example, in India, patients can now access diabetes and hypertension education classes on their phone. In the U.S., Medtronic donated drug-coated balloons to enable more patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) to receive access to maintenance procedures. These donations have the potential to help high-risk patients continue their dialysis treatments without interruption, extending the time between appointments and cutting down hospital visits.
Breaking through the backlog
During the early days of the pandemic, patients all over the world canceled important surgeries. At St. Joseph’s Hospital in Wiesbaden, Germany, the cancellations created a significant backlog for atrial fibrillation procedures. Fortunately, Dr. Joachim Ehrlich and his cardiac team had a solution. Using a Medtronic cardiac cryoballoon catheter system, the team treated 27 patients over the course of three days, which is a 50% increase over typical capacity. The “cryo marathon” significantly reduced the backlog, putting the hospital in better position to care for patients.
Clinical research is vital to ensuring medical devices and technologies reach the patients that need them most. During the early days of the pandemic, we hit the pause button on some clinical trials so our healthcare partners could focus on what mattered most — saving the lives of COVID-19 patients. Most of our clinical trials have since resumed as Medtronic teams quickly devised new ways to lend support to our clinical partners while keeping them safe. Remote patient monitoring and remote device programming played an integral role in this global effort. Since the pandemic began, Medtronic has received regulatory approval of more than 180 products globally and four breakthrough designations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2020. The pandemic didn’t derail innovation. It accelerated it.
Even when the pandemic eases, the fallout will be felt for generations. While no one relishes the thought of another global health crisis, we must be prepared for the next. Medtronic Chairman and CEO Geoff Martha recently shared the company’s vision for building crisis-resistant healthcare systems in a post COVID-19 world at a panel sponsored by the World Economic Forum.
We recognize the challenging work ahead and remain committed to helping our healthcare partners recover, rebuild, and redefine themselves. The coronavirus outbreak has given everyone a chance to rethink priorities. At Medtronic, we are renewing our commitment to our healthcare partners and patients. Together, we will create a bolder, better future.
Kaiser Family Foundation. Nearly 1 in 10 Health Care Workers Lost Their Job Between February and April, But Health Care Employment Rebounded Slightly in May. https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/press-release/nearly-1-in-10-health-care-workers-lost-their-job-between-february-and-april-but-health-care-employment-rebounded-slightly-in-may/ June 20, 2020
Hohman, M. Today. Woman Ignores Heart Attack For Eight Weeks – Urges Other to Take Action. https://www.today.com/health/heart-attack-symptoms-woman-ignores-it-out-fear-hospital-during-t184319 June 15, 2020
Schwartz, J. King, C. Yen, M. Clinical Infectious Diseases. Protecting Healthcare Workers During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Outbreak: Lessons From Taiwan’s Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Response. https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/doi/10.1093/cid/ciaa255/5804239 March 12, 2020
Primary Care Collaborative, Larry A. Green Center. Quick Covid-19 Primary Care Survey. https://www.pcpcc.org/sites/default/files/news_files/C19 Series 9 National Executive Summary with comments.pdf. May 8-11, 2020