Early in the pandemic, we asked Geneia employees to share their COVID-19 bright spot. They freely shared them, a whole range of them. Some enjoyed working from home, and people like principal data scientists Andrew Fairless and Shelley Ni still do.
Others noted how being at home had allowed them to spend more time with family, and in some instances, see their loved ones in a different way. Kevin Schwartz, vice president, finance and operations, shared,
With everyone working at home during the pandemic, it has been interesting observing the behavior of my kids. My two boys are both working at their first job out of college and are home with my wife and me. My daughter is also home, forced to finish up her senior year of college virtually.
While they have always made me proud in school, sports and other activities, I am even prouder of how they are coping with this continued quarantine situation...as adults. It’s insight parents don’t often get, watching their kids at their job or in the classroom. As any parent, I hoped they would apply themselves and be successful. It is extremely satisfying to witness it.
Kristy Tupper, director of business services, observed, “I’ve found time to slow down and enjoy my sons while they’re still here. We’ve regained the family time we seemed to have lost slowly over the years without realizing it.”
Recently, Kristy shared a new bright spot:
“Our rescue puppy had a traumatic start to life. Because my husband traveled all the time and I’ve long worked from home, she was petrified of him and clung to me. No matter how much love he offered her, she cowered in fear. Since he’s been home for a year now, she’s become a ‘daddy’s girl’ and seeks him out for affection. It’s sweet, because he was always so bothered by her reaction to him and now he’s just a proud fur papa.”
Marketing manager Mary Lou McCoy offered, “I’m enjoying have my young adult sons home. Hearing their laughter through the house is really quite wonderful (if sometimes annoying late at night). While I was starting to enjoy being an ‘empty-nester,’ it’s wonderful to have them both back.”
I, too, have enjoyed being home more with my kids, especially the extra time I had with my daughter who started college online in the fall. I’ve also come to better appreciate the side benefits of mask wearing and social distancing, and the fact that I haven’t had a cold or the flu this year. I’ve loved the moments we’ve been able to virtually gather Geneia employees, as we did to thank physicians, nurses and clinicians for their heroic efforts to care for COVID-19 patients.
Michael Walsh, director, product portfolio planning, has four bright spots: consistently more sleep, less traffic time, more meals with family and learning to play the guitar.
Adrienne Rupp, vice president marketing, recently offered:
“A 2020 bright spot was finally being able to bring my horses home: to enjoy them every day, to look out my home office window and see them grazing, to learn and experience their habits and daily rituals that I couldn’t see and appreciate when they lived at a boarding barn.”
Healthcare Industry COVID-19 Bright Spots
As I noted in my annual letter,
there have been bright spots worth celebrating within the healthcare industry, including:
- Unparalleled levels of healthcare collaboration.
- Massive investments in research to identify and create COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics.
- Acceleration of digital health.
- Increased adoption of value-based care.
At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on schools, physicians and hospitals, the economy, and the healthcare industry has, in my opinion, been forever changed. No one has been left unchallenged by the pandemic, many of us have had to make difficult choices, many have been devastatingly impacted by loss of income and life. Doctors and nurses caring for COVID patients have been forced to make unthinkable choices. More than 500,000 Americans have died, a burden disproportionately born by the Black and Hispanic communities. Far too many will live with the physical and psychological impacts of COVID for years to come.
So one year after the World Health Organization into the COVID-19 pandemic, I feel it’s important to find the bright spots as well as acknowledge and pledge to fix the problems laid bare.
As Shelley Ni noted, many families are suffering. “Nearly 12 percent of Americans, or 25.7 million people, reported not having enough to eat” during mid-November. About 40 percent of American say “they have experienced food insecurity for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
There is mounting evidence that too many people have postponed healthcare. An Urban Institute study found that as of September 2020, more than one-third of adults (36 percent) have delayed or foregone care. “More than three-quarters of adults with delayed or foregone care (76 percent) had one or more chronic conditions.” Nearly one-third reported that deferred care “worsened one or more health conditions or limited their abilities to work or perform other daily activities.”
Even more troubling, a person’s likelihood of deferring care rose with their number of chronic conditions: “32.7 percent of adults with one chronic condition and 45.5 percent of adults with multiple chronic conditions delayed or went without one or more types of care.”
Physicians have been burned out for years, and they’ve been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the early days, many closed their practices and others shifted to telehealth. Most suffered financial losses. Too many others contracted COVID. “ On average, 10.9 percent of all cases of coronavirus are among healthcare workers, with some states like New Hampshire and Maine being over 20 percent.” As of December, more than 2,900 healthcare workers had died.
In January, Medscape reported work-life happiness among physicians declined 20 percent in a year, from 69 to 49 percent.
It feels important to repeat what I’ve said before.
We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to all of the many, many physicians and clinicians who have given – and will continue to give – tirelessly to their patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you.
As important as gratitude is, it’s not enough. Once and for all, we must commit to fixing physician burnout. It’s high time we worked just as tirelessly to restore the joy of medicine to the practicing physicians we all rely on to treat us and our loved ones.
So one year in, I am sobered by the ongoing pandemic, the growing tally of deaths, the many people who have COVID fatigue, who have lost their livelihood, who mourn the death of a loved one, who have relapsed or used substance misuse as a coping strategy. I am simultaneously buoyed by the resilience of many around me, the increasing availability of COVID-19 vaccines and all of the COVID-19 healthcare innovation yet to come to fruition.